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TION 67 


















Choose good grandparents. 

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes 

Three generations of imbeciles are enough. 

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes 






Since the year 1934 opened there has been a start- 
ling increase in the attention given to the subject 
of sterilization, an increase which among Ameri- 
can newspaper-readers is probably due largely to 
the news from Germany that Hitler has undertaken 
to have some four hundred thousand Germans 
sterilized nearly a hundredth part of the popula- 
tion. Whether this order is or is not directed ex- 
clusively at the Jews, it is so grave a decision as to 
justify fully the recent discussion of it among thou- 
sands of persons in our own country who may 
never before have taken any real interest in the 

Many far-sighted men and women in both Eng- 
land and America, however, have long been work- 
ing earnestly toward something very like what 
Hitler has now made compulsory. Ridiculed, even 
vilified, they have fought courageously and stead- 
ily for the legalization of what they consider a 
constructive agency in the betterment of the race. 



And now they stand watching their fellow-coun- 
trymen awaken suddenly to a keen and inquiring 
interest in sterilization, and ready to explain what 
it is, why it is needed, and how it should be 
guarded. The average American, to whom it has 
been only a strange or sensational term, now wants 
to know just how it may be counted on to work in 
the elimination of undesirable elements in society, 
along with the burden so long imposed on us by 
their multiplication and their helplessness. Steri- 
lization has something to do with criminals and 
feeble-minded so much the man-in-the-street 
knows ; it has something to do with the question of 
birth-control, some connection with inheritable 
diseases. Such ideas are to be gathered from the 
reading of newspapers and popular magazines. 
But beyond these he has little information; and 
he is going to need a good deal more if the issue 
in our own country is to be considered judiciously 
and legislated on with any degree of effectiveness. 
Holding no brief for Herr Hitler, approving his 
action only because it has served to bring dramati- 
cally to public attention a movement that I have 
long been interested in, I hope in this book to 
clarify the subject of sterilization in all its most 
important aspects; to present the case in non- 
technical language as far as possible, and to help 



my readers toward a better understanding of the 
purposes underlying the sterilization movement. 

My own enthusiasm has been developed through 
my work, during several years, as Executive Sec- 
retary of the American Eugenics Society, an or- 
ganization that acts as a clearing-house for all ideas 
relating to racial improvement, including steriliza- 
tion, and as an active agent in the enactment of 
new laws as well as in the enforcement of old. In 
the course of considerable study of the problem of 
sterilization and related questions in genetics, I 
have gathered a good many experiences and ob- 
servations that support my whole-hearted enthusi- 
asm for the movement, and some of these will 
appear in the pages to follow. I include them 
because they prove that sterilization is no mere 
academic question it has an immediate and vital 
bearing on human life : on our personal happiness, 
on the welfare of our families, on the individual 
and the community pocket-book, on the quality of 
our race in the long run. 

Sterilization is at present, of course, a contro- 
versial issue. Not every one agrees with Mr. Jus- 
tice Holmes that "it is better for all the world if 
Society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit 
from continuing their kind." How bitter the op- 
position is, particularly in some religious quarters, 



will appear in subsequent chapters. But dissent 
comes not only from these quarters; it emanates 
too often from persons who have no religious scru- 
ples in eugenic matters but who are ill-informed, 
or prejudiced, or overhasty in taking their stand 
on half-baked notions. And finally there are the 
thousands who honestly want to think straight on 
this critical question but who have never had the 
facts presented to them clearly and fully. 

To the pocket-book aspect of our situation to- 
day, too, we owe much of the interest expressed in 
sterilization. Taxes and charitable funds in huge 
amounts annually go to support institutions 
crowded with the degenerate, the unfit, the less de- 
sirable members of society ; and every citizen feels 
the pinch. Not that the whole of our burden of 
relief is due to degeneracy; much of it has been 
created by the special economic conditions of the 
past few years. Competent and useful citizens by 
the million have been thrown on charity. But 
when these are once more employed and self-sup- 
porting, there will still remain a heavy and in- 
creasing burden of taxes and charity which can be 
reduced for us and for our children after us only 
if we take such steps toward racial betterment as 
are represented notably by sterilization. Until we 
take that step, the feeble-minded person, the habit- 



ual sexual criminal, and the men and women af- 
flicted by inheritable disease will all continue to 
propagate their kind; women who cannot or ought 
not to bear any more children will go on bearing; 
our institutions will get more and more crowded 
and call on our pocket-books more and more often. 
And meanwhile, what of the quality of the race? 

The question is tied closely with the matter of 
sterilization, more closely than is commonly real- 
ized. Many a person who fully appreciates the 
desirability of the eugenic movement in general is 
likely to shy off at the mention of sterilization, be- 
cause the word arouses emotional reactions. If he 
is naturally kind-hearted, and has an inadequate 
comprehension of the subject, he tends at once to 
put himself in the position of the other fellow and 
ask himself how he would like being the object of 
this form of social discipline. But such a reaction 
is often grossly imaginary, conjuring up fears and 
objections that are groundless. It is hardly more 
than a kind of protective reaction that doubtless 
has some connection with individual and race sur- 
vival, and it can and often does push us toward 
rationalizations and unsound decisions. This fact 
is well attested in the personal experience of any- 
body who has had much to do with social planning 
or social work in general, for it is the human trait 


that is utilized as the basis of appeals for charity. 
Any organization seeking help for a group of un- 
fortunates knows how effectively it can plead if it 
makes you and me feel that we are somehow iden- 
tified with those for whom the money is needed. 
And so it is with many of us when first we learn 
of the sterilization movement; our instantaneous 
reaction is, "But suppose I were ever to be the 
victim of the sterilization law!" a reaction which 
in itself betrays less than adequate understanding 
of the subject, since (as I shall show later) a sub- 
stantial number of the very men and women who 
need sterilization either submit to it quite will- 
ingly or indeed welcome it. 

No our instinctive revolt is negligible, both in 
itself and in its relation to the practical problem. 
If it develops into active opposition, or as often 
happens into a tendency to abuse the supporters 
of sterilization, it can be successfully met only by 
the wider spread of enlightened understanding. 
The case for sterilization rests on sound principles, 
it has the highest possible humanitarian aims and 
the support of countless scientific authorities, and 
it is growing more vitally important in our lives 
every day. No one can deny that our present trend 
is toward a planned society planned biologically 
as well as economically; and no planned social or- 



der is attainable without careful consideration of 
the kind of people we want to 'have forming the 
race of the future. Inevitably the question arises, 
How are we to achieve the desired effect? And 
the answer is: Cut off the useless classes by pre- 
venting their reproduction, and increase the better 
that is, the useful and self-sustaining, not neces- 
sarily the more brilliant. For the sake of our 
children, if not for our own sake, we must reduce 
the terrific burden of degeneracy that we have 
loaded on our shoulders through our policy in the 
past. I believe that sterilization is but a part of 
the general discipline that we call social planning, 
and it is from this point of view that I shall dis- 
cuss it. 

This is to be no "neutral" book it is frankly 
advocacy of a worthy cause that I have for 
many years studied in all its aspects. I have 
even debated it on a number of occasions, some- 
times taking the side against sterilization. But 
after reading all that I could find on the subject 
and weighing the evidence carefully, I am now 
wholeheartedly in favor of it under certain strictly 
defined conditions, and it would be hypocritical to 
assume an attitude of neutrality. But by ad- 
vocacy I mean educational advocacy of the most 
disinterested sort. In two chapters I have brought 


forward all the objections that I have ever heard 
urged against sterilization, answering these as hon- 
estly as I can and granting that there is weight in 
some of them. But the facts and figures presented 
throughout the book will prove, I believe, that the 
preponderant weight in the end will be found on 
the side of those who are urging sterilization. My 
position is not that of the scientist of earlier days, 
who was supposed only to collect facts and was 
not expected to publish the views he had derived 
from them except through learned scientific mono- 
graphs that could hardly reach the people. In 
such a matter as sterilization it is the people who 
must be reached ; they can form their own beliefs 
and direct legislation wisely only on the basis of the 
discoveries and the opinions of the scientist. 





From my own observation I can testify that a 
good deal of the opposition to sterilization arises 
from ignorance of what it really consists in. Ster- 
ilization is not castration. It does not completely 
destroy sexual activity, nor does it interfere with 
those processes, psychical and emotional, which are 
dependent on normal sex functions. It differs 
from castration in being partial, its sole effect being 
to prevent procreation. The person who is steri- 
lized in the ways that I shall describe as satisfactory 
continues to enjoy his or her normal sexual activity 
but is unable to produce children. I stress this dis- 
tinction because it is of the utmost importance and 
because I have encountered so many people who 
have the wrong idea. 

In order to understand the working of the vari- 
ous recommended procedures for sterilizing, it 
will be useful to review briefly the essential points 
in the anatomy and physiology of the sex organs. 
To take the female organs first : the most important 



are the ovaries, ductless glands whose functions are 
closely linked with the entire gland system. Each 
of the two ovaries contains innumerable micro- 
scopic cells which develop into ova. During every 
cycle of 28 days there is a period of growth for 
some of these cells and of death for others; this 
period of growth and death being closely connected 
with the female sexual feelings. Many studies 
have been made on the sexual cycle in women, one 
of the most important being described in a mono- 
graph by Dr. George N. Papanicolaou of Cornell 
University, which with other work on correlated 
facts about reproduction shows that the cycle runs 
through the following four stages : 

First Period. There is a general 
cleansing process ; the lining of the uterus 
breaks down, is sloughed off, and is re- 
placed by a new lining. Deep within the 
ovaries (lying on each side of the uterus) 
cells are beginning to grow toward the 
surface. During this period there is a 
diminution in passion on the part of most 

Second Period. This is known as the 
copulative period. Ovarian cells which 


will eventually become ova (eggs) are 
growing rapidly, each within a sac called 
a follicle. This sac contains also a fluid 
known as the follicular hormone, which 
is absorbed into the blood and for good 
reasons is believed to be the chemical 
cause of the desire for copulation. The 
cells and their surrounding follicles grow 
larger, until presently one of the follicles 
bursts. When this has occurred, it marks 
the virtual end of the copulative period. 

Third Period. The post-copulative. 
As soon as one follicle has burst, its con- 
tents are liberated ; a growth then starts in 
the place where that follicle was, and 
similar growths start simultaneously in 
the follicles that were not ruptured. In 
each case the growth not only fills the 
follicle but increases to very large pro- 
portions so large indeed that, if we con- 
sider the ovary to be about three-quarters 
of an inch in diameter, the growth itself 
may reach a quarter of an inch in diam- 
eter, or more. The growth is called the 
corpus luteum or yellow body, and it de- 
velops faster than any other body of cells. 



This process of development is over in a 
few days. Furthermore, the corpus lu- 
teum secretes a hormone which working 
probably with other hormones lessens 
the desire for copulation, so that for a few 
days there is a marked let-down. 

Fourth Period. The pre-menstrual, 
during which the ovaries are in a more or 
less quiescent state. At this time there is 
quite generally in women a desire for 
copulation, such as is not known in the 
lower animals during the corresponding 

So much for the 28-day cycle. Now let us see 
what happens in the rest of the reproductive tract. 
Alongside the ovaries are the fimbrae, bodies that 
are something like sponges, attached to the upper 
ends of the Fallopian tubes. These are the tubes 
connecting ovaries and uterus, their purpose being 
to carry the ovum to the uterus, where (if ferti- 
lized) it may develop into the embryo. Now, dur- 
ing copulation (sexual intercourse) the male's 
semen is moved upward in the Fallopian tubes 
until it comes to the fimbrae, where it awaits the 
appearance of the ova. As we reach this fact we 



are again at the point where we may discuss 

How is sterilization of the female to be effected 
with the desired good results and with no bad ones? 
Obviously, it must not be done through the removal 
of the ovaries, since the sexual rhythm and perhaps 
even the whole sexual life itself would thereby be 
upset, possibly causing still other physiological 
disturbances. What, then, is best? The question 
is being answered at present in several ways. 

Sal ping ectomy. The operation most often per- 
formed to-day for sterilizing women is known as 
salpingectomy, a simple and safe surgical method 
of rendering the Fallopian tubes impassable to the 
male sperm in its movement toward the fimbrae. 
Once these tubes have been rendered impassable by 
means of this operation, which, of course, can only 
be performed by a skilled surgeon, fertilization 
cannot take place, the unfertilized eggs being ab- 
sorbed in the same way in which the other thou- 
sands of eggs within the ovaries are absorbed. 
When so performed the records of this operation 
prove that it is not only simple, but not attended 
with any particular danger. 

This has now replaced an older and less efficient 
operation in which natural growth over a period 



of time in a number of cases (18%) rendered the 
patient again fertile. 

Salpingectomy has been performed thousands 
of times, without one recorded case of serious com- 
plication or of death. Whether salpingectomy 
can be undone later that is, whether by further 
surgery fertility may be restored is still question- 
able. So far as I can learn this operation has never 
been attempted, though many argue that it is prac- 

Searing. Still another operation similar in 
effect has been devised by Dr. Robert L. Dickinson 
of New York. He reasons that it is better, when 
practicable, to effect the sterilization without mak- 
ing an incision, and he suggests searing within. 
This operation also is a simple matter when in the 
hands of a skilled surgeon, and leaves the patient 
without any permanent bad after effects or any 
appreciable amount of surgical shock. The rela- 
tive value of searing as opposed to the use of the 
knife is a surgical one and the opinions of surgeons 
vary upon this point. At any rate both methods are 
effective in the sterilization of women. Both of 
these operations are better than the use of the X-ray 
which will next be mentioned. Searing, too, in the 
belief of some authorities, may be undone at a later 
date if there is reason for the restoration of the 



fertilizing process ; though like the other this point 
is questionable. 

The signal advantage of either salpingectomy or 
searing is that the operation not only prevents con- 
ception but also does not interfere in any way with 
the normal sexual activity of the woman. This is 
extremely important to bear in mind in connection 
with the problem of sterilization. 

X-ray. A third method must be described, if 
only by way of warning. In private practice the 
X-ray has been used, and more often than is war- 
ranted by the results. Its use is now decreasing, 
and some of the reasons for this may be cited. Al- 
though radium and the X-ray have been used with 
success in many sterilizations, these two methods 
have often produced either failure or at best 
unsatisfactory results. One common effect of 
treatment by radium or the X-ray is to stop men- 
struation which virtually constitutes castration. 
The function of the ovaries is destroyed, and the 
hormones are no longer produced. 

This is not the worst result, however ; there are 
two other considerations of the utmost importance. 
The first relates to the effects of radium or the 
X-ray when used to bring about temporary steril- 
ity. This is sometimes desirable or necessary, and 
the treatment is not continued long enough to de- 



stroy the ovarian function ; normal menstruation is 
not interfered with, though conception cannot take 
place. When, in time, the effects pass off and the 
woman regains her fertility, there is likely to be 
trouble ; for among the children conceived shortly 
after the treatments, it has been found that a large 
proportion were microcephalic idiots i.e., with 
the tops of their heads abnormally small. This 
type of child seldom has intelligence and is usually 
short-lived. If it survives it becomes the sort of 
sad "freak" that one sees in side shows. If the 
cause of such monstrosities lies in an unexpected 
pregnancy following close on radium or X-ray 
treatment, the latter is certainly wrong as a method 
of effecting temporary sterilization. 

The second consideration is the influence of the 
X-ray on the germ-plasm. Experiments on lower 
forms of life have shown that mutations (perma- 
nent changes) of the germ-plasm can be induced 
rather simply by the use of X-rays ; and the changes 
observed thus far have always been downward in 
the evolutionary scale. A corresponding effect on 
the human germ-plasm permanently altering its 
basic cells would imply a tremendously impor- 
tant change in the next generation and all future 

But whatever weight we may or may not give 



to either of these considerations, it is certainly too 
early to put much trust in radium or X-ray sterili- 
zation ; the method has been in use for too short a 
time to produce results that can be checked. The 
safest course at present is to say: "When in doubt, 

Male sterilization presents a far simpler prob- 
lem, as will be evident on a consideration of the 
anatomy and physiology of the male sexual organs. 
Here, as in the female, the sex glands (gonads) 
constitute the most important part of the mechan- 
ism. In the male these glands are the testicles. 
They are nourished by a large blood supply and 
are made up of millions of tiny tubes called tubules, 
each of which is lined with cells. These are the 
germ cells, and from them are manufactured the 
spermatozoa (or sperm), which correspond to 
the ova in the female. Every cell divides several 
times, each time working toward the center of the 
tube, until eventually, after several divisions, they 
change into cells that are able to move about; 
under the microscope at this stage they look like 
polliwogs. They are now moved along the tubules 
until they reach the epididymis, a much larger 
tube with many twists and turns which lies just 
outside the testicle, and here they are stored. 



These spermatozoa are extremely minute; we 
should have to put hundreds of them together in 
order to make a spot large enough to see. The 
head of each spermatozoon is its more important 
part, its tail (about nine times as long) being for 
the purpose of locomotion. 

The channel by which the spermatozoa leave the 
epididymis is what must interest us in connection 
with sterilization. This is the vas deferens, a tiny, 
flat, thread-like tube running from the testicle, en- 
tering the abdomen through the groin along with 
the blood-vessels and the nerves, and passing 
around the bladder. There it meets the prostate 
gland, and at that point two vesicles or ducts join 
with it. It is in these ducts that the semen is stored 
i.e., the fluid that carries the sperm. 

When sexual emission occurs, the seminal ducts 
discharge the semen, and this causes a suction that 
draws millions of the tiny sperm up the vas def- 
erens to mix with the semen. Since male fertility 
depends on the sperm, it is evident that the best 
way to sterilize a man is to prevent the sperm from 
reaching the semen; and this can be done by a 
rapid and skilled minor operation in the surgeon's 
office. This preventive principle was the basis of 
Steinach's operation, so much discussed a decade 



ago. Dr. Steinach decided that if the sperm were 
not allowed to leave the testicles at all, the energy 
thus retained would put new life into an old man ; 
this was his "rejuvenation" process. But an im- 
portant distinction must be noted between Stein- 
ach's operation and the one performed for 
sterilization : Steinach, in keeping the sperm from 
passing, obstructed the vas in both directions the 
sperm not only could not pass farther along the vas 
deferens but also could not issue from the vas at all, 
remaining instead in the testicle. This set up a 
degenerative process in the testicle that made it in- 
capable of producing sperm a very bad result, 
according to Steinach's critics. The vasectomy 
used for sterilization, on the contrary, redirects the 
sperm so that it can be discharged into the scrotum 
(the sac that holds the testicles) ; thus the testicle 
continues to produce sperm, which are merely ab- 
sorbed into the scrotum. 

This matter of the absorption of the sperm is 
responsible for some of the objection that exists 
to the operation. Many persons have thought that 
it must be harmful; they urge that since there is 
no special mechanism provided for taking care of 
it, the process may lead to disintegration and de- 
composition. But the fact is that the human body 
is capable of absorbing harmlessly much larger 



objects than the sperm or the ova. It is not un- 
common, for instance, for an embryo to develop 
normally during several months and then gradu- 
ally become absorbed with no harmful effects. 

Vasectomy is the standard operation in use for 
sterilizing men, and it is so simple as to require 
hardly more than an office call on the physician. 
It can be done in a few minutes and there is prac- 
tically no risk of complications if proper sanitary 
precautions are observed. The operation for ap- 
pendicitis, (appendectomy), in an average case 
with no complications, is very much more serious 
than vasectomy which can, perhaps, be better com- 
pared, for importance, with a tonsil operation. 
And even here the balance favors vasectomy since 
there is no risk of hemorrhage or risk of any kind 
beyond that of surgical cleanliness. It is as simple 
as that and no complications have ever been re- 
ported as supervening. 

Ether is not necessary, but the operation need 
not be painful, since the patient can have either gas 
or a local anesthetic. 

The question has often been raised, by those who 
have learned of this operation, whether it can be 
corrected undone in case this be found advisa- 
ble. The point is as yet undetermined : many sur- 
geons are confident that it can be done effectually, 


while others are doubtful. Such a correcting op- 
eration is a far more delicate procedure than the 
original vasectomy, though it is not dangerous ; one 
side only would have to be reconnected, since the 
sperm from one testicle would be more than 
enough to insure fertility. 

Sterilization through the entire removal of the 
testicles, as a therapeutic measure, need not be con- 
sidered here, being a medical rather than a eugenic 

It can hardly be urged, evidently, that either the 
male operation or the female is a very serious mat- 
ter. A woman who is sterilized spends two weeks 
in bed at the expense of the community; a man 
may be put to bed for a week, though actually he 
is able to go about his work again almost at once 
if the bandaging has been done carefully. In both 
cases, as soon as the incisions are healed the thing 
is over. Compare these after-effects with those of 
another public health measure, vaccination. Here, 
and in various serum treatments, there are often 
serious and painful after-effects, which among 
many people give rise to doubts and even to active 
opposition; yet it is obviously the feeling of the 
law-making majority that this constitutes a risk 
that must be taken for the good of the community 



that the benefits accruing from these measures 
far outweigh the occasional and exceptional harm 
done. And we must add to vaccination and serum 
treatments this newer health measure, sterilization, 
as at least equal to them in potential benefit to the 
race. It differs from them in tending to perma- 
nently eliminate misery. 

A very important consideration, naturally, is the 
effect of either operation on the subsequent sexual 
life of the patient. It can hardly be said too em- 
phatically that normal sexual activity continues 
unimpaired. Desire is not reduced, and the sexual 
act can take place just as before ; the only difference 
being that now the sterilized person cannot create 
a child. 

As for that general comfort, happiness, and sense 
of well-being that are produced by normal and 
unimpeded sexual functioning, the effect of the 
operation will be discussed in Chapter IV. 

The sterilizing process is already at work natu- 
rally, has indeed always been at work, in a way that 
nobody wants to see continued. It is mentioned 
here only because so few persons realize that it ex- 
ists. I refer to the sterility brought about by pros- 
titution. The great majority of prostitutes are 
sterile because of venereal infection. However 
much we may approve of the result (that they can- 



not produce children), we must realize that their 
venereal disease is carried to many innocent per- 
sons, who may thus be rendered sterile against their 
wills. For prostitutes are the chief spreaders of 
syphilis and gonorrhea. They are, moreover, pre- 
dominantly of low mentality, as shown in Dr. Tage 
Kemp's study of Copenhagen prostitutes. 1 Half 
of the women he examined had the intelligence of 
morons or under. Nearly three-quarters suffered 
from active venereal disease. Only 35 percent 
presented no psychic abnormalities. In our own 
country we may read similar findings from Drs. 
Yoakum and Yerkes, who in their Army Mental 
Tests have this to say about the intelligence of pros- 
titutes in the United States : 

In several hundred cases investigated 
by the psychologists, 53 percent of the 
women were ten years mental age or less ; 
10 percent were so feeble-minded that 
they should have been placed in custodial 
institutions. A large percentage of those 
who tested above ten mentally showed 
marked evidence of mental instability 
and in some cases definite mental disease. 

1 A Study of the Causes of Prostitution, a paper presented 
before the International Eugenics Congress, New York, 1932. 



A relatively small number could be said 
to be mentally normal. 2 

If Nature is working the sterilization of pros- 
titutes through their venereal disease, and thus 
preventing the propagation of other undesirables, 
she is in a sense the ally of those who seek the same 
end through artificial sterilization ; but her method 
is hardly to be encouraged, if its means is venereal 

2 C. S. Yoakum and R. M. Yerkes, Army Mental Tests, 
New York, 1920, p. 196. 






One gratifying feature of the task we have before 
us is the wealth of available information already 
assembled in the form of records. Many thou- 
sands of men and women have been sterilized under 
the laws of the United States, and thousands of 
others have been sterilized privately. The opera- 
tion is gaining favor among many classes of people 
and on several different grounds. By this time, 
therefore, there are enough data accessible to help 
us to determine, provisionally at least, the answers 
to two important questions: Has sterilization 
proved effective? What do the sterilized subjects 
themselves think about it? 

During several years before 1929, Mr. E. S. 
Gosney and Dr. Paul Popenoe of Pasadena, Cali- 
fornia, conducted a study on many aspects of 
sterilization, a study based in part on questionnaires 
and in part on direct interviews. The results of 
this study are found in their Sterilization for 



Human Betterment* and in a series of eighteen 
papers. 2 Two of these papers deal with the effect 
of sterilization on the patient, one with the attitude 
of the patient toward the operation, and another 
with the attitude of the patient's relatives. The 
complete results constitute one of our richest mines 
of concrete facts and figures on the subject, and it 
is from the Gosney-Popenoe data that I shall draw 
much of the evidence in this book. 

The answer, in California, to the first question 
above is contained in the fact that of the 2,500 
women who were sterilized, only four subsequently 
became pregnant, these four having been sterilized 
by the old type of operation referred to in Chapter 
II ; the proportion revealing the superior effective- 
ness of the newer type of operation. 

Equally important, however perhaps even 
more important is the reaction of the patients. 
How many of them have been satisfied? Do they 
feel remorse over no longer being capable of hav- 
ing children? Do they wish that they could have 
their reproductive powers restored? The answers 
to these questions will appear in our discussion of 
the conditions found among the various classes 

1 Sterilization for Human Betterment: a Summary of 6000 
Operations in Calif ornia f 1909-1929. New York, 1929. 

2 For their titles see Appendix A. 



into which the sterilized may be grouped. I be- 
lieve that we may take the answers with a con- 
siderable degree of assurance that they represent 
the real feelings of thousands of subjects, for I 
myself have not only examined carefully all the 
public records that I could find, as well as such 
studies as that by Gosney and Popenoe, but also 
have interviewed in person a considerable number 
of people who have been sterilized ; and I repeat 
that our experience with the operation is suffi- 
ciently extensive by now to warrant positive asser- 
tion that its results are predominantly beneficial. 

The classification offered here needs a pre- 
liminary definition of some of its terms if misap- 
prehension is to be avoided. By birth-control, for 
example, is not meant abortion, or infanticide, or 
any of the other things that are often wrongly put 
forward as its equivalents; it means merely the 
prevention of conception, any method by which the 
male sperm is prevented from reaching the female 
ovum and thus starting a new life. When, again, 
I speak of "therapeutic reasons" for sterilization I 
am referring to the cases in which some existing 
pathological condition can be cured or arrested or 
prevented from getting worse only by sterilization. 
Finally, it may be useful to clear up certain general 
misconceptions of the meaning of "eugenics." Too 



many people, I find, confuse this with genetics. 
Now genetics is the study of the mechanics of 
heredity; it will be discussed in the chapter on 
Mendelism. Eugenics is quite another matter. It 
has nothing to do with sex hygiene, or with anti- 
vice movements, or with State-made marriages, or 
with the birth of babies to unmarried mothers; it 
is not a plan for creating a race of supermen. It 
has been called all these things by persons who get 
their ideas from news channels of rather less than 
perfect authenticity. What eugenics really is has 
been perfectly defined by Francis Galton, who 
coined the term and who was one of the greatest 
scientists of all time : 

Eugenics is the study of all the influ- 
ences under social control which may im- 
prove or impair the inborn qualities of 
future generations of man either physi- 
cally or mentally. 

We live in an age of social control, and here 
in eugenics lies our most glorious opportunity of 
controlling the quality of our children and our 
children's children. 

The thousands of persons who have submitted to 
the sterilization process may be grouped for con- 



venience of discussion into five classes, having been 

(1) as a means of birth-control; 

(2) as a therapeutic measure; 

(3) privately, either as a eugenic 
measure or for the protection of them- 
selves and their families; 

(4) punitively, as criminals, and 

(5) under the protection of the law, 
at the request of parents for social and 
eugenic reasons, or as a eugenic measure 
by the state. 

( i ) As a means of birth-control. No figures are 
available for the sterilizations performed as a 
means of birth-control, since, when the operation 
is resorted to by either husband or wife for this 
reason, it is done privately by a surgeon. But my 
own inquiries have led me to believe that it is 
done thousands of times annually in this country. 
One California doctor, for instance, states that he 
has sterilized 150 married men for this purpose 
during his years of private practice. For certain 
reasons I am personally opposed to the adoption of 
sterilization for birth-control, believing that in the 
great majority of cases the more usual contracep- 
tive methods are preferable. 



Leaving aside for the moment all cases in which 
the prevention of conception is desired because the 
wife ought never to have any more children cases 
which will be discussed under our second group 
it may be said that the commonest reason given by 
married persons in the first group runs something 
like this: "We've had enough children and we 
don't want any more." Among my own acquaint- 
ances I can count half a dozen men, all of a high 
type, who have had the operation performed when 
they felt that their families were as large as they 
wanted or could take care of. One of these has six 
fine children. He and his wife are both young, 
but they know that their days of wanting babies 
are over, and both are perfectly satisfied now that 
the husband has been sterilized. Indeed I should 
have to go far to find a happier couple. None the 
less, I believe that sterilization is not necessarily 
called for in such conditions, and still less when the 
man and his wife are well on toward middle age 
at the time of considering the step. Contraceptive 
measures would serve as well. Under our current 
social customs marriage is likely to be deferred 
until the late twenties, with the result that by the 
time a man and his wife have had a number of 
children, conveniently spaced, they are both ap- 
proaching forty ; which means that the woman has 



only a short time to wait for the menopause, and 
during those years the same contraceptive practice 
that has served to space out the births will do just 
as well to prevent further conceptions. The only 
reason for substituting sterilization is apparently 
that it saves trouble. 

Sterilization is, we must bear in mind, a pretty 
final thing in the present state of our knowledge. I 
have said earlier that though some authorities be- 
lieve that it can be undone, and fertility restored, 
others doubt this. I myself have never heard of 
such a correction's being even attempted. The 
person, therefore, who considers being sterilized to 
prevent further children must consider it long and 
carefully must indeed, I should say, be able to 
foresee his future and his wife's! For if ever the 
time should come when they felt that, after all, 
they would like to have another child, they cannot 
be sure (so far as we know at present) that the 
sterilization can be undone; they may wish that 
they had resorted to contraception instead. I have 
in mind an example of this. A young man and 
his wife, in business together, decided that they 
did not want a home and children; so the woman 
(against her husband's wishes) went to a hospital 
and was sterilized. Five years later the husband 
found that he wanted children, and he urged his 


wife to undergo a re-operation to restore her fer- 
tility. But she argued that this would mean a risk, 
that up to this time their life had been pleasant and 
fairly free from risks, and she could not make up 
her mind to agree. Then another woman came on 
the scene, who was willing to give the man a home 
with children. The result was a divorce, the divi- 
sion of the business, and lonely perplexity for 
the first wife. 

If they had adopted contraception rather than 
sterilization, their problem might have been sus- 
ceptible of a happier solution. 

The procedure is liable to abuse, too, when re- 
sorted to for birth-control purposes. I have in 
mind the case of a man whose life had always been 
filled with adversity. There was no doubt that he 
had been used very badly, hounded continually by 
ill fortune. When he married (so he has told me) 
he and his wife decided not to have children. "I 
wouldn't want to bring a child into the world to 
risk going through what I have gone through," he 
said. "I feel that it is a kindness to the unborn 
to keep them unborn." Well, most of us would 
probably not agree with him, but I emphasize the 
fact that he is, in all respects save this, a fine type 
of man and citizen, and I must admit that he and 
his wife are utterly happy. Yet here again I be- 



lieve that the sterilization performed on that man 
was wrong. 

Nor is it only the husband and wife who in my 
observation had sometimes put themselves in the 
wrong in this matter; the doctors, too, may some- 
times exceed their duties. I know of one young 
woman who was told by the surgeon after she came 
out from an appendectomy, "Now, my dear, there 
is one burden that you have off your mind forever. 
While I was taking out your appendix I tied off 
your tubes, and you'll never have to worry for fear 
you'll have babies. Isn't that nice?" Comment is 
unnecessary; though exclamation marks are almost 

If, however, there are good reasons for steriliza- 
tion in order to prevent further births, the opera- 
tion should be performed on the less healthy of the 
pair in most cases. A physician's advice should be 
sought, naturally, since the decision will depend on 
the various circumstances surrounding each case. 

(2) As a therapeutic measure. The cases in this 
group are, strictly speaking, medical rather than 
social, but they are included because of the service 
that medicine has rendered to society in preventing 
the transmission of biological defects. Sexual per- 
verts and the emotionally unstable are conspicuous 
among the subjects for sterilization with this aim. 



Such cases will be discussed more fully under (3) 
and (5). Here I may mention first the case of the 
woman who cannot bear her children normally be- 
cause her pelvis is too small and who therefore has 
to have a Caesarean operation. It is sometimes 
represented that sterilization is here in order be- 
cause the woman may transmit this same difficulty 
to her girl babies. This I cannot accept, never in 
my own observation having known of a Caesarean 
girl child who, when grown up, had any harder 
time in parturition than if she had been born 
naturally; nor is there any evidence to be found 
that such a biological defect is transmissible. The 
real reason, I believe, for urging sterilization in 
this case is the unwillingness of the parents to have 
any more children, and I must say that in the cases 
I have encountered the woman has seemed to be 
perfectly content to be rendered sterile. Many a 
woman faced by the choice of having Caesarean 
babies or none has found a way out through adopt- 
ing children. 

Other conditions in which sterilization is indi- 
cated for therapeutic reasons are heart disease, 
tuberculosis, kidney trouble, and other ailments not 
necessarily inherited. Any of these, when coupled 
with pregnancy, may bring breakdown or even 
death to the mother if the disease is severe, or if 



the pregnancy is not terminated. Plenty of women 
with such diseases have had one abortion after an- 
other, and if for no other reason than to relieve 
them of worry these women should be sterilized, 
since especially in the case of patients afflicted 
with tuberculosis the worry often aggravates the 

(3) Privately, as a eugenic measure or for pro- 
tection. Numerous persons have been sterilized by 
the family physician or surgeon at their own in- 
stance or that of the family. These are usually the 
feeble-minded or insane, the kinds of abnormal 
persons whose sexual impulses, as is well known, 
are likely to be strong and unchecked and who are 
therefore a potential menace to society. In these 
cases it is useless to ask whether the patients are 
satisfied, to seek to learn how they feel about hav- 
ing been sterilized ; they are commonly of so low 
a mental grade that they are incapable of construc- 
tive thinking. But we do know how their parents 
and relatives regard the procedure. To them it 
means infinite relief from anxiety, the assurance 
that the patient will not now bring grief on them 
through sexual crimes and perhaps illegitimate 
children, and finally the possibility that they can 
keep him at home instead of sending him to an 



No one knows how many feeble-minded and in- 
sane persons are kept in their own homes, or how 
many of these have been sterilized. Of the total 
number, probably the majority live in country 
areas. Indeed, there are many families on run- 
down farms all over the land who are one and all 
feeble-minded and who go on reproducing their 
kind generation after generation, supported by the 
community through jobs requiring little or no in- 
telligence. Except for its reproductive feature, 
such a situation is often not so bad as to call for the 
segregation of such persons in an institution. If a 
feeble-minded or insane person can be kept at 
home, and is sterilized so as to avert the most seri- 
ous kinds of trouble, there is no reason why he 
should be put away in an institution. He is doubt- 
less happier at home, and in certain cases his 
family is better satisfied to have him at home. 
But certain strict conditions are prerequisite: the 
family must be able to take care of him properly, 
and must be reconciled to the need of making the 
family life revolve around its unfortunate member. 
A wealthy family, with a large house and plenty 
of servants, which is able to regulate its life to the 
chief end of seeing that no harm comes to outsiders 
through the presence of the patient, does well to 
keep him at home. But any less fortunate family 



conditions as in a poor rural home are likely to 
lead to trouble in the neighborhood. 

What I have just said applies rather to adult 
patients than to children, for my observation sug- 
gests that the feeble-minded child is often much 
better off in a well-run institution among others 
of his kind. The staff of such an institution are 
trained to handle emotional upsets, which consti- 
tute the dangerous element in some cases. More- 
over, the family of an adult patient will usually 
agree to his sterilization in order to protect them- 
selves and others, whereas the permission is hard to 
get in the case of a child; which is one more reason 
for placing the feeble-minded child (especially if 
he is also emotionally deranged) in an institution. 

When sterilization is performed on a feeble- 
minded child, he usually does not take in what has 
occurred and is likely to be as happy afterwards as 
before. If there is objection, it is on the parents' 
part they so often simply refuse to give up hope 
that their child may "get well some time." But 
my impression, in the cases where the operation has 
been permitted by the family, has been that they 
were eventually very much relieved by it; a ter- 
rible responsibility has been lifted from their 

In cases where sex perversion can be proved to 



be inherited, sterilization is permissive in certain 
States. That it runs in families there can be no 
doubt, but this does not apply to all forms of it. 
Not a little sex perversion is developed by our over- 
civilization, as well as by early association with the 
wrong kind of children. The cure often resorted 
to, where perverts become offensive or dangerous, 
is castration, this being done not, of course, in the 
name of eugenics but rather as a therapeutic meas- 
ure, and it is generally effective. 

(4) Punitively, as criminals. Sterilization in the 
case of criminals should never be regarded as a 
form of punishment, but always rather as a eugenic 
measure that is, for racial improvement. Some 
of the first laws enacted authorized the perform- 
ance of the operation as a punitive measure, and 
we may be grateful that in every case our courts 
decided against it as "cruel and unusual punish- 
ment," and it no longer has any place in our penal 
system. There were, in any case, very few sterili- 
zations performed on that ground under these 
early laws. 

Before the passage of any law in Indiana a fairly 
large number of sterilizations were performed 
with the consent of the criminals themselves what 
is called voluntary sterilization. The operation in 
these instances was sanctioned by the State and 



prison authorities, and the usual procedure ran 
something as follows : 

A criminal would be approached by the prison 
doctor or the warden. He would be asked whether 
he had any children. If so, how was he able to 
support them? Was the State taking care of them? 
Did he add another to his family every time he was 
liberated? Did his wife like that? Did he like it? 
Then how would he like it if a simple operation 
were to be performed on him that wouldn't make 
the least difference in his sex life, but would make 
it impossible for him to have more children? 

Every man was skeptical naturally. "Has any- 
body else ever had it done?" "Yes Mike, down in 
the other corridor." Mike would be summoned. 
The two would talk it over, Mike proving enthusi- 
astic and selling Sam in no time. If you or I had 
had ourselves sterilized, we might be ardent advo- 
cates of sterilization. So Sam says he'll think it 
over, and eventually he decides that it will be a 
good thing. 

On this basis a great many operations were per- 
formed in Indiana institutions, and the men were 
eminently pleased. Indeed, the voluntary proce- 
dure might still be carried on, had not a law been 
passed authorizing sterilization in Indiana. This 
law, however, instead of helping along the move- 



ment, threw so many legal protections about the 
patient that the surgeons grew wary and the volun- 
tary practice was discontinued. (It has, however, 
gone on in other kinds of institutions in Indiana- 
charitable, for instance.) 

In this group of cases, then, we can say that the 
operation has been effective as regards the attitude 
of the patients. I myself have talked with men 
who have been sterilized and in every case they ex- 
pressed complete satisfaction. 

A number of States permit sterilization of 
habitual criminals. Germany, too, has included 
this provision in her sterilization plans. Usually it 
is done not as a means of punishment but as a 
eugenic or social measure. If a recidivist offender 
must spend most of his time in a jail, then it is 
hardly fair to society that during every period of 
liberty he should cause another child to be born 
to his wife, who very likely does not want another, 
especially since he cannot support the ones they 
already have. A great deal is to be said in defense 
of the sterilization of such persons, even when it 
is not strictly a eugenic measure. 

(5) Under the protection of the law, for social 
and eugenic reasons, at the instance of the parents 
or the state. In this group we may include all 
persons sterilized by the state, whether the initia- 



tive is taken by the patient's family or by public 
officials. These are all low-grade persons, nearly 
always too stupid or too insane to apply voluntarily 
for the operation. Those among the low-grade 
class who are so imbecile or so insane that they 
will always remain incarcerated do not enter our 
present consideration, since in their case there is 
no need for sterilization. It is the border-line cases 
those who can be given partial or entire freedom 
at times or even permanently that fall into this 

In California it is the custom in nearly all cases 
to obtain the written consent of the relatives for 
the sake of harmony and the avoidance of litiga- 
tion. Institutional superintendents report that 
relatives often urge the operation. As most people 
know, the type of insanity called manic-depressive 
affects its victim periodically; he will get over one 
attack and be released, but sooner or later he is 
taken with another and must return to an institu- 
tion. It is such cases in particular that have bene- 
fited by sterilization. Sometimes, during the sane 
period, there will seem to be every prospect that 
sanity will continue permanently; the husband or 
the wife returns home apparently for good, a baby 
is born, and then the victim of the disease falls 
once more into depression, to be returned to the 


hospital, the other parent having then to care for 
the child or children. Such couples have wel- 
comed sterilization, pleading with the physicians 
in charge to have the operation performed for the 
good of the patient and his or her family. Usually 
both husband and wife sign the order for it. When 
it is done, everybody concerned looks on it as a 
blessing. (See Chapter V for a discussion of the 
inheritability of insanity.) 

In the case of border-line children, families are 
often happy to have the operation performed, 
either for the sake of the child or in order to pre- 
vent distressing consequences as the child grows 
up. More will be said in this book about the 
problem of the border-line child, a problem whose 
gravity is appreciated by too few persons consider- 
ing that this group constitutes the danger-spot of 

Any one who has ever had experience in dealing 
with feeble-minded persons knows that it is not 
hard to persuade them to do something that may 
be actually harmful to them. It is for this reason 
that they fall victims to foul play so readily, are 
so often roped into gangs engaged in deviltry, and 
thus come to the attention of the authorities. And 
for this same reason it is very easy to persuade them 
to undergo the sterilization operation they will 



assent to almost anything and sign any papers pre- 
sented to them. Special care is thus called for if 
they are not to be exploited ; they should have all 
the protection that a court can throw about them. 
And, as a matter of fact, under the sterilization 
laws now in use they do have this ample protection. 

Such people can be made to tell how much they 
think they have benefited by the operation ; while, 
in the hands of others, they can, through suggesti- 
bility, be made to say they have been badly treated. 

Lest any one put himself in the position of a 
person to be sterilized and conjure up imaginary 
grievances, let me say that such a person knows 
very little about the feelings of one needing steri- 
lization. The fact is that the greater part of the 
operations performed to date have been done with 
the consent of the patients, in the case of those with 
sufficient mentality to understand what it was all 
about; and in most other cases the patients have 
been sterilized with the consent of relatives. If 
you were insane, I am very sure that you would 
never wish to transmit such a condition to any 
child of your own. If you loved your children, 
surely you would want to spare them the suffering 
that you have had to endure. If you were blind, 
congenitally deaf, epileptic, or insane, would you 
conceivably want to have children badly enough to 



run the risk of passing on these defects to them? 
If you would, you are not like the persons with 
these troubles whom I have known. 

Let me cite an instance that I myself encountered 
not long ago. In this family the mother had Hunt- 
ington's chorea a disease which is inherited, if 
one parent has it, by half the children of the mar- 
riage. This pair had two children, one of whom 
was showing symptoms. I asked them directly 
why they had not had other children besides these 
two. The mother was plainly shocked that I 
should even suggest such a possibility. It was the 
deepest sorrow of her life that she had passed her 
disease on to the child. And I learned one further 
fact, pertinent to our subject: the husband and wife 
had for some time been living in virtual celibacy, 
for fear of begetting more children, and it was 
threatening their health and happiness. She ex- 
pressed frankly her strong regret that she had not 
been sterilized early in life, as soon as the chorea 
appeared, and assured me that if she had known at 
the time of her marriage that her disease was in- 
heritable and that sterilization was feasible, she 
would have had the operation performed then. By 
the time I knew her it was a lost hope, for she was 
past her menopause; but she was planning to have 
her son sterilized, with her husband in agreement. 






In Chapter III a point was raised that is of the 
utmost importance in any discussion of steriliza- 
tion: its effects on normal sexual activity and on 
the general sense of well-being in the person steri- 
lized. If there were any evidence that he or she 
complains of a let-down in either the desire for 
intercourse or the enjoyment of it, if the operation 
has had such systemic effects that the psychic, emo- 
tional, and esthetic irradiations of the sex life have 
been reduced or lost altogether, then a grave chal- 
lenge would be offered. But no such evidence has 
appeared. The reports from persons intelligent 
enough to testify on the point are with few excep- 
tions unanimous in the other direction ; one group, 
indeed, finding a new and positive heightening of 
these elements. 

It is hard for many people to believe this. Some 
particularly those trained in certain historic 
religious faiths find it impossible if not indeed 



wrong to dissociate the sexual act from the con- 
scious intention to produce offspring. Still others, 
and there are entirely too many of these, have so 
little understanding of the physiology of reproduc- 
tion that they jump to the conclusion that 
sterilization implies the complete stoppage of 
sexual activity. Physicians encounter this attitude 
constantly in their practice. When they tell us 
that many a pregnant woman thinks that her child 
is to be born through the navel, how can we expect 
her to know the intricate mechanism and the com- 
plex activity of the sexual organs? It is probably 
only natural that the majority of people who hear 
or read about sterilization should have the idea 
that it involves a definite alteration, physical or 
psychical, for the worse. 

We have seen exactly what is involved physically 
in the operation. No organ is removed in either 
salpingectomy or vasectomy; in each case a con- 
necting tube only is severed. The nervous system 
is not meddled with to any appreciable extent. 
Knowing this, we should not expect much psycho- 
logical change if any. But to make sure, we must 
ask the men and women who for one reason or an- 
other have been sterilized. 

What is perhaps our fullest and clearest source 
of statistical information on the subject is two of 



the studies made by Gosney and Popenoe in Cali- 
fornia. 1 The general conclusion to be drawn from 
its pages is that, so far as these men could find out, 
there was practically no dissatisfaction felt by steri- 
lized patients. Both voluntary and compulsory 
sterilizations were represented. Of the former 
class, the study states emphatically that they were 
not only satisfied but even grateful ; of the compul- 
sory cases (173 in number) one-seventh were 
regretful, the remainder either well pleased or not 
dissatisfied. And it may be noted that these com- 
pulsory cases were all psychiatric cases, in which 
one might naturally expect an augmentation of 
mental and emotional disturbance. 

For a certain reason it is desirable, in examining 
the replies made to the authors of these papers, to 
beware of giving equal weight to those from older 
persons and to those from younger : the testimony is 
largely in the form of questionnaires, which pre- 
clude following up the answers with oral questions 
that would penetrate further into the underlying 
conditions. Thus a sterilized person of middle age 
who answers the questions printed might report 
that his or her sexual vigor has diminished follow- 

1 No. 17 Effect of Salpingectomy on the Sexual Life; No. 
1 8 Effect of Vasectomy on the Sexual Life. For complete 
list see Appendix. 



ing the operation, when the truth would be that it 
was beginning to diminish anyhow, at that age; 
the testimony for or against such diminution in 
younger persons must be given far more weight be- 
cause the effects noted are absolute rather than 
relative. Yet, although the California study re- 
ports such adverse testimony in the case of a num- 
ber of older persons, it is more than offset by the 
far greater number (of all ages) who reported an 
increase in sexual satisfaction. Of 109 women 
studied, for instance, 78 noticed no change, 22 
noticed an improvement, and only 9 reported a 
decrease. Of 65 men of high type who had been 
sterilized privately as a means of preventing pro- 
creation, practically all said either that the opera- 
tion actually improved their physical satisfaction 
and psychical well-being, or else that it seemed to 
make no difference. Of 155 women privately steri- 
lized, 56 reported improvement, 92 saw no change, 
and 7 claimed a decrease. 

It is not hard to identify the reason for the pre- 
ponderating evidence of satisfactory effects that we 
find in this and other studies: the release from 
worry, the mental relief consequent on the removal 
of fear lest a child may be conceived as the result 
of the act. For a considerable number of the per- 
sons testifying were men and women whose motive 



for sterilization was their reluctance to bring into 
the world more children than they could take care 
of, or defective children carrying on some trans- 
missible trait. What sterilization does for such 
persons is to enable them to have intercourse more 
frequently and without fear of possible conse- 
quences. How markedly the libido (sexual desire) 
is heightened when this fear is removed is illus- 
trated by the testimony of some husbands that their 
wives are always more passionate during pregnancy 
a time when, physiologically speaking, they 
might be expected to lose desire. 

Though, as has been said, most of those who an- 
swered were in favor of the operation, there were a 
few who expressed themselves as believing it to be 
good for other people but not for themselves. One 
of the most interesting recordings is that of the 
woman who, after being sterilized, objected vio- 
lently; so the physicians considered her case and 
wrote to her to return to the institution so they 
could operate and restore her fertility. She did 
not return. 

I should like to describe an experience that came 
within my own observation, to show the intimate 
connection between fear and the due enjoyment of 
intercourse, as well as the occasional real justifica- 
tion for sterilizing in the interests of birth-control. 



In this episode I pitted my own small knowledge 
against the much larger fund of a psychiatrist. He 
won, but I still think I was right. A man consulted 
me about his wife. There was insanity on both 
sides of her family, and she had been in an insane 
asylum for two years. Now that she was home 
again, cured, he wanted to know what to do to keep 
her sane and happy. The reason he had come to 
me was that a psychiatrist had told him that they 
ought to have a second child, "so as to keep her oc- 
cupied." She was greatly opposed to the idea, and 
so was he. Her fear of pregnancy was growing to 
the proportions of a delusion of persecution. So I 
suggested, for the sake of her happiness as well as 
that of her husband and the nice youngster that 
they already had, that either he or she be sterilized, 
so that the two could enjoy the normal pleasures of 
marriage without the fear of pregnancy on her part 
a fear that might possibly bring on a recurrence 
of her insanity. 

Well, though the husband was convinced that I 
was right, they decided to consult the psychiatrist 
once more. After all, he was a professional man, 
who ought to know the right thing to do. And it 
was his reputation that won. He persuaded them 
to have the baby, not the sterilization. The result 
of that birth was that the wife was again committed 



to the asylum, and from present indications will 
stay there for the rest of her life. Thus a home is 
broken up, a husband has lost his dearly loved wife, 
and their two children are motherless. Now, of 
course, it is not possible to dogmatize here, to pre- 
dict that the woman would have stayed sane if she 
had been sterilized. But what is certain is that 
if she had been, or if her husband had been, they 
would not have produced a child whose prospect of 
mental health and happiness is hardly promising. 

And this was only one woman of the millions 
whose fear of pregnancy dominates their lives, only 
one of the many whom, for one reason or another, it 
would be a mercy to sterilize if the conditions are 
such that contraception is impracticable. In the 
case above, for instance, two such conditions were 
present: the woman was too desperately afraid to 
put her full trust in any contraceptive measure, and 
if the most reliable of these had proved a failure, 
and she had conceived, there would have been the 
same disastrous outcome as actually did occur. 

To attain some degree of control over our own 
destinies, to reduce the hold that fear has over our 
lives, is a familiar psychological formula for hap- 
piness and efficiency. Contraception is proving of 
inestimable value in this respect to thousands of 
persons, and where contraception does not answer, 


the recommendation should be for sterilization. I 
should like to repeat here what I have often said 
publicly, that sterilization is the kindest operative 
procedure introduced since the discovery of anes- 
thesia three-quarters of a century ago. Except for 
anesthetics, nothing else has the power of alleviat- 
ing or preventing so much human misery. 





In any study of sterilization one continually 
meets the word "carrier." For instance, in The 
Biological Basis of Human Nature 1 Professor H. 
S. Jennings speaks of the great hope for racial im- 
provement that may come if only a way can be 
found by which carriers of racial degeneracy may 
be identified. What has this to do with the subject 
of sterilization? A great deal. We should know 
at least a little about the mechanics of heredity if 
we are to discuss the subject intelligently. 

For thousands of years it has been recognized 
that certain traits seem to skip a generation. These 
will appear in one generation, fail to appear in the 
next, and then reappear in the third. Plant and 
animal breeders were familiar with this fact for 
centuries, but it remained for an Augustinian 
monk of the little Moravian town of Briinn to 
discover the mathematical law governing the 

1 The Biological Basis of Human Nature, New York, 1930. 



phenomenon. At the time some three-quarters 
of a century ago his valuable contribution to 
human knowledge was neither appreciated nor 
even widely known; and not until 1900 was it de- 
scribed, in a little journal published by the Natural 
History Society of Briinn, where it had lain since 
1859. This published description constituted the 
virtual re-discovery of the Mendelian principles. 
With that re-discovery, developments followed 
thick and fast in the science which we know to-day 
as genetics. Men began to apply Mendel's law to 
the inheritance of characteristics in animals and 
man. Charles B. Davenport studied human eye- 
color, for instance, and found that it is inherited 
according to this law. Others studied color in- 
heritance in rodents, to such good purpose that by 
our own day, if you describe to a geneticist the 
color inheritance of a mouse or a guinea-pig, he 
can tell you within quite narrow limits, sometimes 
exactly, what the color of the offspring will be. 
During the same period, Thomas Hunt Mor- 
gan and his associates at Columbia University were 
studying the mechanism of inheritance in the fruit- 
fly. Cytologists (students of the cell) were observ- 
ing the components of cells and describing their 
discoveries. As for inherited human characteris- 
tics, similarly productive work has been done and 



is still being done. Some of these are found to be 
inherited in such complicated ways that the only 
method by which they can be studied is the statis- 

If you look at a cell through the microscope you 
find within it a little globe called the nucleus, 
filled with what looks like granular material. If 
you were to observe a long series of these cells, you 
would sometimes note curious changes occurring 
in them. These mark the process of multiplica- 
tion. As is well known, the body grows by an in- 
crease in the number of its cells. A cell that is to 
grow must divide, forming two cells. When it 
divides, all of its component parts divide also. 
This should be remembered, since it has a bearing 
on heredity. 

The granular material in the nucleus congre- 
gates into tiny lines called chromosomes. All of 
these chromosomes, except sperm cells (sperma- 
tozoa) and egg cells (ova), are found in pairs. In 
the case of spermatozoa and ova, each has half of 
the normal number of chromosomes, which are on 
their way to create new individuals and are thus 
reduced in order that this new individual may not 
receive twice as many chromosomes as its parents 
possessed. Every species has a definite number of 
chromosomes. We humans have twenty-four 


pairs; fruit-flies have only four pairs. We often 
hear biologists say that every individual receives 
half his characteristics from one parent and half 
from the other. This is because the chromosomes 
are the hereditary bridge from one generation to 
the next 

The chromosomes themselves are made up of 
smaller units called genes, and every characteristic 
of the body of an animal or a plant is produced 
by the interaction of these genes. Like the chromo- 
somes, genes go in pairs. It is believed with good 
reason that the members of each pair are placed 
directly opposite each other in the chromosomes. 
In creating the characteristics in the body for 
which they are responsible, each two genes work as 
a team. When, in the process of reproduction, 
they come to be dissociated one from the other we 
know that in spite of their intimate relationship, 
neither one has influenced the other ; and it is this 
stability of the gene that keeps the various inherited 
characteristics stable in their turn. 

Genes themselves can and do divide, and thus 
there is always a lavish amount of germ-plasm, far 
more than is ever used. For instance, during 
copulation between a male and a female animal, 
sometimes as many as 10,000,000 sperm are trans- 
ferred. The tassel of the corn plant produces so 



n-r^ 8 



Persons affct<i. 

A typical pedigree showing the inheritance of a simple Mendelian 
dominant trait (one type of deafness). Many human characteristics 
are similarly inherited. Some are good for the individuals possessing 
them, some bad, and some neutral in their effects. (Courtesy 
Eugenical News.) 


many of the pollen cells, which are as fine as the 
finest dust particles, that the air will sometimes be 
tinted yellow with it when a breeze lifts them off 
the tassel. 

Though inherited traits or characteristics are de- 
pendent upon the interaction of all the genes, a 
difference in one of a pair of genes will make a 
very great difference in the end-product that is, 
in the completely developed animal. In your own 
case, for example, if one of a pair differs from the 
other, this difference may be the direct and specific 
source of your ability to throw your thumb out of 
joint; or if one of another pair differs, it may mean 
that you have the ability to transmit blue eyes to 
some of your children although your own eyes are 

What geneticists are trying to do is to learn what 
all the inherited traits are. They can hope to do 
this with animals, but some people say that they 
cannot learn anything about human beings be- 
cause they cannot breed human beings as they do 
animals. The answer is that they don't have to 
human beings have very obligingly (if uncon- 
sciously) done the mating themselves, and have left 
records. Often there are three generations of the 
same family living, so that the geneticist may go 
forth with his measuring instruments and his pen- 



cil and paper and reach valid conclusions. And, 
as research has discovered, for the most part when 
a given trait is found to behave in inheritance 
according to a certain pattern in one family, it 
behaves so in all families. That is because we all 
have parts of the same original germ-plasm. 

How, then, do we inherit? Well, we must bear 
in mind that there is one pair of genes for every 
characteristic, and that the child inherits one from 
each parent. The father has, let us say, a pair of 
genes for blue eyes, and the mother has a pair of 
the kind of genes that determine brown eyes. The 
child receives one gene from his father's pair and 
one from his mother's pair, to reach his full quota 
of two. Then, we might ask, what color will his 
eyes be? Obviously, in this trait he will be a hy- 
brid. But his eyes prove to be brown. Why, you 
ask? It is "just because," and that's the best answer 
that can be given. Experimental evidence shows 
that when a gene for brown eyes is mated with a 
gene for blue eyes, the result will be brown eyes. 
Mendel said that one character, the dominant, 
dominates the other, the recessive. The recessive 
(blue-eye character) was there, in the case above, 
but you couldn't tell this by looking at the child 
because the dominant had been the brown-eye 



So, in a family which is homogeneous for brown, 
nothing but brown eyes can result; and in an all- 
blue-eyed family, only blue can be transmitted. 
But in a hybrid family, as a geneticist would call it, 
there are chances for producing both blue and 
brown. Thus two brown-eyed persons both of 
whom, however, have recessive blue-eye genes 
can have a blue-eyed child ; similarly, two persons 
who cannot throw their thumbs out of joint will 
sometimes produce a child who can. But it is 
readily seen that when two recessives marry they 
cannot have children bearing the dominant trait. 
For the dominant trait is just dominant; if either 
parent possessed it, it would be apparent. When 
the children of two recessives show the recessive 
trait only, it is because no dominant blots it out. 

What Mendel did principally was to discover 
that there is a mathematical law governing this 
matter of inheritance. You can discover it for 
yourself if you will take two teacups and put some 
white beans in one and some black beans in the 
other, both representing genes. Now it is obvious 
that from the black cup you can take only black 
heredity; from the white, only white heredity. In 
each case you have drawn out two "pures." If 
you take one from each, you will have a recessive 
and a dominant coupled together, and such a com- 



bination would produce a dominant-appearing in- 
dividual. Now make up for yourself some new 
generations that will represent the way that selec- 
tion works out in Nature. Mix in another cup one 
hundred black beans and one hundred white ones; 
this is a "marriage" that is to produce some pures 
and some hybrids. Take a pencil and paper and 
rule three columns. At the top of the first column 
make two solid black dots; at the top of the second, 
two open white dots; and at the top of the third, 
one black dot and one white one. These three col- 
umns represent the three possible combinations of 
beans which you are going to draw from the cup. 
Now you are ready to begin the process of "selec- 

Close your eyes and draw two beans from the 
cup at random. They will both be black (pure), 
or both be white (pure) , or there will be one black 
and one white (hybrid). Whichever pair it is, 
make a check in the corresponding column on your 
paper. Keep on drawing the beans out, always 
with your eyes shut and at random, for that is the 
way heredity works. In the end, when all the beans 
are out of the cup, you will find that you have 
recorded very close to 25 pairs of blacks, 25 pairs 
of whites, and 50 pairs of hybrids one black and 
one white. This is the law that Mendel established 



through growing garden peas. He mated peas 
that produced tall vines with peas that produced 
short or dwarf vines; and he found that the first- 
generation hybrids were all tall, but that when he 
mated these hybrids together he got just what you 
got when you picked those beans out of the cup. 

This is practically all there is to the principle 
discovered by Mendel. And when we come to ask 
how many human characteristics there are that are 
inherited thus simply and that we know to-day, the 
answer is about two hundred. If you are interested 
in learning what these are, turn to Appendix B, 
Table I, where you will find a partial list, domi- 
nance and recessiveness being shown. 

Now you may say that, if this is all there is to it, 
the problem of eradicating degeneracy ought to be 
easy : simply find the persons who carry the genes 
of mental defectiveness and sterilize them. The 
trouble is that there is a good deal more to it than 
that. Many of the great, worth-while characteris- 
tics of us human beings are not inherited in the 
simple manner described above. Certain human 
defects are, and these can easily be traced back 
through generations. But what about such things 
as mental ability? Is that a simple matter? What 
about temperament, that very complex trait so im- 
portant for human happiness? You see, these 



things that we find in different degrees cannot be 
inherited as simple Mendelian characters are. But 
this does not mean that we are helpless in our 
efforts to control them. 

Who, for example, would say that, if all the 
horses in the world were interbred until all types 
were merged in a kind of universal mongreliza- 
tion, we couldn't quite quickly reestablish the race 
horses and the draft horses, and the ponies, and the 
polo ponies, and the saddle horses? By selective 
breeding we could do it quite easily in fewer years 
than we anticipated. Yet racing ability, for in- 
stance, is inherited in a very complicated manner, 
so complicated that the only way we can study it 
is by statistical methods. 

Now certain forms of absolute f eeble-mindedness 
are inherited as simple recessives. Certain others 
because they are not absolute non-intelligence, 
but rather are varying and relative grades of mere 
sub-intelligence are inherited complexly. And 
that is why it seems so certain that we can recog- 
nize the carriers of f eeble-mindedness ; usually they 
are only a little higher mentally than persons who 
are actually of lower grades. 

The ability to cope with life, to live happily, is 
not a simple Mendelian characteristic. Sometimes 
one simple Mendelian character will spoil the 



chances of an otherwise excellent promise of great 
capacity. Take Huntington's chorea, for example, 
also known as shaking palsy. Without it, some 
people would have risen to heights now impossible 
of achievement because they were handicapped by 
this dominant defect. 

There are other characteristics whose mode of 
transmission is not very complicated, as for exam- 
ple color inheritance in human beings. When a 
black woman has a child by a white man, the result 
is a mulatto. Mulattoes are of quite uniform color. 
When two mulattoes marry and produce children, 
the children may range through shades of color 
from white to black. There are four colors in the 
skin of each of us: white, yellow, red, and black. 
If we eliminate the red and the yellow and consider 
the white and the black we should find that there 
are two pairs of genetic determiners working on the 
end-trait color, and this accounts for the varying 
degrees of color in children of mulattoes. In other 
words, there are a greater number of combinations 
possible where four genes are concerned than 
where two are concerned. 

In considering the many characteristics which 
go to make up the individual, we must never forget 
that the characteristics that have gone into a com- 
bination sometimes come out a generation or two 



later with new partners. This is another way of 
saying that one gene or one chromosome is not 
affected by the partner it had while residing in the 
body of its temporary custodian. We have all seen 
men who are partly white but who have the kinky 
hair of the Negro. Occasionally one sees a fairly 
black man with light-blue or gray eyes, denoting 
that he was probably the son of mulattoes each of 
whom had a blue-eyed parent. This is so often the 
case to-day that one cannot tell from a man's color 
just how much he has inherited from his white an- 
cestors, because skin color alone is no criterion. 
He may have inherited a majority of the characters 
of the white grandparents, even to straight hair, 
aquiline features, and so forth, and still have black 
skin. In fact, it is my belief that most of the dark 
Negroes who are really accomplishing things to- 
day are of this type. Unfortunately, many of them 
do not themselves know just what their heredity 
has been, and this fact has handicapped investiga- 
tors, who have had to depend for their studies on 
two consecutive generations only. 

In accounting for the complicated phases of 
heredity, we need but to remember that the more 
pairs of genes or determiners involved in the in- 
heritance of any trait that interests us, the harder it 

=Consf\cuous1^ \a\enUd (genius) 

= Musical 

d - Deceased. Y= Too x^ou 


A typical pedigree showing how a worthwhile human characteristic 
(musical ability) runs in a family. This is not dominant nor re- 
cessive, but a student finds differing grades of it in a pedigree. 
Musically inclined persons tend to produce musically inclined children. 
They do not always do so, but, on the other hand, often produce 
children more musical than they themselves. (Courtesy Eugenical 


is to study that trait except by statistical methods. 
But just as the skin color in the human shows varia- 
tion, so but to an infinitely greater degree does 
the inheritance of some other traits. This explains 
why geniuses so seldom produce children who are 
geniuses. The parents themselves represent the 
upper level of the potentialities of their germ- 
plasm, and the subsequent tendency is therefore 
downward. But selection continuously maintained 
tends to keep the type varying around any given 

Knowing these broad principles you will better 
appreciate what is meant when we say that some 
traits definitely tend to "run in families." Their 
inheritance is sometimes too difficult to pin down 
to a single pair of determiners, but one family his- 
tory after another has shown that certain families 
produce these traits generation after generation. A 
list of such inherited traits is given in Appendix 
B, Table II. 

Then there is still another kind of inheritance 
called sex-linked inheritance. It was sex linkage 
that enabled the early investigators of the genes 
to learn what position those lie in along the chro- 
mosomes and that thus made chromosome "maps" 
possible. When the Nobel Prize was awarded to 
Dr. Morgan in 1933 it was largely on the basis of 


this remarkable discovery. By selective breeding 
of fruit-flies he and his associates were able to map 
out the relative positions which different genes 
occupied on the chromosomes. A certain pair of 
chromosomes are the determiners of sex. The 
male has two sex chromosomes that do not match, 
but the female always has a pair that are mates, 
and one of the male's is like both of the female's. 
That one always comes from the female in inherit- 
ance. It is a fifty-fifty chance which one the em- 
bryo receives from the father. If it gets the odd 
one, the embryo will be a male, while if it gets the 
one like that which it received from its mother, it 
will be a female. 

Along this odd chromosome lie genes for cer- 
tain traits from the father ; and along the other one 
lie other genes, coming of course from the mother. 
The male chromosome sometimes has no genes 
complementary to those in the female chromosome, 
and when this is so, there is nothing to dominate 
the genes from the mother. Traits thus appear 
that are sex-linked. Geneticists sometimes say that 
these characteristics are recessive in females and 
dominant in males, which is partly true. They are 
passed on through the mother and do skip a gen- 
eration. Thus, the ex-King of Spain has sons who 
are "bleeders." They are constantly in danger of 



their lives because their blood does not have the 
ability to clot within the normal time, and they 
bleed from any wound for many days. This trait 
came from the Queen's father ; King Alfonso had 
nothing to do with passing it on. Color-blindness 
is another character that one inherits from his 
mother's father. Sex-linked traits are seldom pos- 
sessed by women because the chances are so small 
that any one would receive a pair of determiners or 
genes for this one character. If the woman did, 
then all her male offspring would possess it, 
whereas under ordinary conditions only half would 
receive it on an average, because there would be 
only one chromosome bearing a gene which was 
the determiner for it. A list of some of the sex- 
linked traits of man is given in Appendix B, Ta- 
ble III. 

Some of the traits listed in the Appendix are 
exceedingly dangerous, while some are beneficial 
or neutral in their effect on the individual. The 
essential fact to remember in reading through this 
list is that if a person inherits recessives, there is 
no chance of his or her transmitting dominants. 
And in many cases this holds for the more complex 
traits as well. For instance, research fails to dis- 
cover a single normal child whose parents were 
feeble-minded and were in turn the children of 



feeble-minded parents. But there are cases on 
record in which a feeble-minded person has mar- 
ried an insane man and had normal children. That 
is because each child received genes for normality 
along with the genes for subnormality, and the 
normal ones were dominant. But such a child must 
indeed watch his step when he comes to marry, for 
the recessive genes for subnormality may mate with 
other recessives in the sperm, resulting in subnor- 
mal children. 

In certain cases, two feeble-minded persons have 
produced children who would pass for normal; 
here, one parent has usually been found to have 
come by his or her feeble-mindedness through 
other means than heredity. For though the body 
may have been affected, the germ-plasm was not, 
and the dominant normality overcame the genes 
for degeneracy which were furnished by the other 

There are also cases in which a brother and a 
sister have produced a child somewhat brighter 
than either parent. There is such a child in a Cali- 
fornia institution for feeble-minded. It is not 
normal, but the inherent potentialities in the germ- 
plasm provided for a child slightly higher in the 
scale than its parents. I know, too, of a case at the 
other extreme, in which a brother and a sister have 



been married under assumed names for many years 
and have two extremely talented children, both of 
whom seem fully as intelligent as the parents. The 
evidence is good, therefore, that there were no 
traits for degeneracy inherent in the parents' germ- 
plasm, or they would have stood a much greater 
chance of pairing up and thus creating degeneracy. 
This is the reason why marriage within a family is 
somewhat more dangerous than marriage with out- 
siders. If the outsider, however, has the same 
traits as the family, then there is no more danger in 
marrying within the family than there is in marry- 
ing such an outsider. Some of the greatest families 
in the world have been the products of quite close 
family marriages. The Galton-Darwin-Wedg- 
wood family is a case in point. Cleopatra was ex- 
ceedingly inbred, if we may apply the same termi- 
nology to humans that we use for animals. Many 
persons think that cousin marriages are responsible 
for a great deal of feeble-mindedness and insanity, 
and that our institutions are filled with the results 
of such marriages; but this is not so. As I have 
said, there is no more danger in cousin marriage 
than there is in marriage with an outsider provided 
the outsider carries the same genetic traits. In 
short, inbreeding does not in itself produce weak- 
ness ; what produces it is rather the latent or reces- 



sive genes for degeneracy, which two members of 
the same family are more likely to carry (and so 
to combine) than two persons are who are not 
members of the same family. 






We have no way of knowing just how much 
feeble-mindedness and insanity there was in the 
United States in the early days, but we do know 
that at the very first there was practically none, 
because the environment was too harsh to allow a 
degenerate to live. Quick wit and ingenuity were 
required for survival. That early history consti- 
tutes an excellent lesson in what a natural life does 
for mankind. There is no place for the misfits in 
the upward scheme of evolution. Indeed, if we 
can learn anything from that lesson, it is that 
Nature certainly does not want weaklings. In 
every species, we find that the inferior individual 
is soon exterminated and the superior allowed to 
survive. So, in the early days of all nations, when 
men had to fight for existence, a biologically better 
lot of men and women could have been found than 
we find to-day, now that civilization has done its 
best to save as many weaklings as possible. As we 
look back over the history of New England, for 



example, we find a fairly long period during which 
there were no almshouses, town farms, or other 
such institutions; and also that after town farms 
were established they were occupied for the most 
part by a few old people whose dependence was 
due less to subnormality than to misfortune. 

An intensive study of the history of a typical 
New England town, in many aspects related to the 
subject of degeneracy, has been made by the writer 
and Dr. Arthur Estabrook. We investigated the 
earliest census figures, as well as church and town 
records, and uncovered some remarkable facts. 
The story is so typical of the early development of 
rural areas in New England that it will serve well 
as an example of the progress of degeneracy in our 

The story begins with the petitions made by 
dwellers in the eastern part of the State for tracts 
of land in the western part, on which they might 
settle. The governor made many grants, and set- 
tlers emigrated from the neighborhood of Boston 
through the woods and sparsely settled communi- 
ties between, to the beautiful hill site of the present 
town, which we shall call Cellarholes. Here the 
soil was terribly poor, and rocks were everywhere ; 
but these rugged men and women went to work and 
eked out an existence. The village grew rapidly 



until at one time it had a population of about 1,500. 
During the stagecoach and tavern period Cellar- 
holes was a prosperous town boasting fifteen or 
twenty industries ; and with prosperity there came, 
of course, an increased degree of social security. 

Now, to understand the whole story, we must go 
over to England and see what was happening there. 
The news that came from the young colony was 
presently so good, bearing promise of such certain 
security, that the British Government began to en- 
courage emigration and colonization. But did that 
government try to select the best of its families and 
urge them to emigrate to Massachusetts? No. In- 
stead, it allowed those to go who wanted to, and 
every once in a while exported a shipload of pros- 
titutes and misfits of the same kind as were being 
sent to Georgia. 

Some of these undesirables drifted to Cellar- 
holes, and married; and their children intermar- 
ried with the families already there. Moreover, 
westward-moving emigrants were continually driv- 
ing through the town, and the Cellarholes folk 
heard tales of the fertile prairies that these emi- 
grants were bound for, and of the fertile Connec- 
ticut River valley only a few miles away, and of 
the gentle slopes of the Hudson River valley where 
there were no stones, and crops had the advantage 



of longer growing periods. Those who had what 
New Englanders still call gumption pricked up 
their ears. Those who hadn't were satisfied where 
they were. 

In time the railroad came through this part of 
the State, though eight miles from Cellarholes, and 
since almost every foot of the way from railroad 
to town was uphill, the townspeople were handi- 
capped in getting supplies to Cellarholes. Pres- 
ently the young people, particularly those with in- 
telligence and ambition, began to seek wider 
opportunities elsewhere, in places where life of- 
fered more outlet for their energies. So they left 
Cellarholes. But what did they leave behind a 
better or a poorer group than themselves? The 
answer comes all too readily. As you picture this 
selective process going on, generation after gener- 
ation, it may occur to you to liken Cellarholes to 
a great milk-vat. Running off the top is a tube 
that continually siphons off the cream as it rises, 
and what is left is skim milk. Much of what is 
left in Cellarholes was and is skim milk. The ex- 
ceptions are some fine people who have found their 
greater opportunities in staying and managing the 
town, and a few old people who have come back to 
their childhood home to spend their remaining 
years. But for the most part, the townspeople can 



be characterized in a remark made to a circuit 
judge who was unfamiliar with the place. He 
asked a native who had been called as a witness 
what they did in Cellarholes. She replied, "In 
summer we raise blueberries, and in winter we 
raise hell." 

Should you go to the various public institutions 
of Massachusetts and look for the names of those 
who have come from Cellarholes, you would find 
complete quota fulfillment and more. If you were 
to go to the county seat and look through the files 
of the Humane Society, of the jail, of the charity 
organizations, you would find that, considering its 
very small present population, Cellarholes has al- 
ways had many more persons in constant trouble 
than has any other community of corresponding 

Degeneracy has increased here, just as it has in- 
creased in many another community. Cellarholes 
constitutes almost a country slum. Yet it is not 
altogether fair to characterize the town thus; for 
the countryside is beautiful indeed, and within the 
town itself one finds some families of newcomers 
who are outstandingly desirable in type one 
Swedish family, for instance, who in true mental 
and physical worth probably rank among the top 
two percent of our population. 



If, on the whole, degeneracy has increased in 
this New England town to such an extent that a 
large proportion of its people now are below par, 
it is typical of what may be expected to happen 
when good pioneer stock is mixed with bad immi- 
grant stock, to combine and recombine so that a 
few generations later the mixture is producing 
degenerates. I do not imply that most of our de- 
generacy can be traced back to England; I want 
merely to bring out the fact that innate characteris- 
tics producing degeneracy do not for the most part 
arise spontaneously. 

Let us go a step further. Let us consider the 
nation pretty well established so far as security 
is concerned. Now, other nations face the prob- 
lem of excess population, and America has come 
to be generally accepted as the place to send this 
excess, in lieu of colonies. Suppose that you were 
a public official in, say, Italy. And suppose you 
had some inkling of the fact that there are people 
and people, that some make good neighbors and 
some make troublesome ones. Then suppose, fur- 
ther, that you realized that you live on a stony 
peninsula, that your land is not adequate to feed 
your increasing population. Might it not occur 
to you that it would be a fine plan to assist, through 
gentle propaganda, some of the surplus to emi- 



grate? This is what did occur to certain Italian 
officials, and they designated a Commissioner of 
Emigration who stayed on duty while our Commis- 
sioner of Immigration was asleep; at least, our 
official seemed powerless to do much to prevent 
the coming of those whom the Italian Commis- 
sioner wanted to send. 

At first, only strong laboring men came over 
here from Italy, men who could earn money to 
send back to their wives; and they were urged to 
return every two years to cement family ties. No 
restriction was placed on the migration to America 
of the less valuable elements in Italy, and there is 
good reason for believing that the best elements 
were in various ways urged to stay at home. So 
Italy did a little selecting, and on the whole 
America would be better off (to put it mildly) if 
Italy had not selected in just the way she did. 

An error into which some students have fallen 
in judging the racial quality of a people is to base 
their judgment on the representatives of that peo- 
ple here in America. Many contemporary judg- 
ments of the Italians offer excellent examples of 
this fact. If we were to judge the people of Italy 
by the Italians in the city of New Haven, we 
should say that there must be six times as much 
degeneracy in Italy as among the native-born 



stock of New Haven. This is far from true, as will 
be evident in our further discussion. 

Like Italy, the other European nations have 
done considerable dumping of their less valuable 
population, with the very happy result for them 
that they have fewer problems of degeneracy 
than we have. Why wouldn't they? A few years 
ago I arranged a series of illustrated lectures to 
be given here by the Norwegian biologist, Dr. Jon 
Alfred Mjoen, an honest man and one of the few 
Europeans I have ever heard on the subject who 
told the facts candidly. He had half a dozen pic- 
tures of the most disreputable-looking tramps 
imaginable, and while they were being put on the 
screen he said not a word. But after they had all 
been shown he shocked his audience by saying: 
"America has used Norway very badly, through the 
more rigid immigration laws which your Congress 
has passed. We cannot now send people like this 
to America any more ; we shall have to arrange to 
take care of them ourselves!" 

I could recount one tale after another of assisted 
emigration from European countries. Jurists, 
knowing full well the expense to their country of 
maintaining criminals, have often helped criminals 
get to America. Here is how this has been done 
repeatedly in England and Germany: A man is 



tried and convicted by the jury, but the wise judge 
says (in effect) to the prisoner, who has been al- 
lowed to post a small bail bond, "I shall pass sen- 
tence upon you two weeks from Friday, and it will 
probably mean that you will go to jail for five 
years." Now what has resulted is simply that the 
man gathers some money from his friends and 
jumps his small bail; then, instead of going to 
prison he goes to America, the land of the free. 

Though such practices are now happily of the 
past, they do explain where many of our traits of 
criminality have come from. The fact that Eu- 
rope has dumped so much of her expensive and 
unwanted human debris on our shores certainly 
accounts for most of the seedstock from which our 
lower types of degeneracy have sprung. 

The subject cannot be left without a further 
comment on "country slums." Most city people 
seem to think that human beings may not be 
thought of as "slum-dwellers" unless they are 
herded together. But, as we have seen, a slum is 
made by the people who live in it. This ties up 
with any estimate we try to make of the source of 
degeneracy. We who live in sections of the United 
States where the winters are cold are likely to think 
that we have more degeneracy than the South has ; 
but this is far from being certain. Rather, it is 



our cold weather that drives more low-grade peo- 
ple to ask for help. One outstanding trait of the 
low-grade mind is its inability to look ahead. 
True, the low-grade city-dweller may sometimes 
prosper, for in the city, where everybody is saving 
his money and advice is plentiful, a stupid person 
may get help from such people as trustworthy bank 
employees who will advise him to save his money. 
The mere ability to save is therefore no longer any 
criterion of mental status. By living on a very 
low plane and taking his earnings to the bank, a 
low-grade person may accumulate respectable 

But this is not true in country areas. Here the 
low-grade person has little chance to earn much, 
and in general, because everybody else is trying 
hard to work his own land, the yokel works his too 
and thus gets enough to eat during the summer. In 
most cases he may, it is true, neglect to provide for 
the winter ; but when winter comes, if he lives in a 
warm climate he needs no fire and in normal times 
can get a living. The public authorities do not see 
much of him and his youngsters, and so go on 
believing that they haven't any serious poverty 
problem. On the other hand, foresight is needed 
to get through the Northern winter. Then the 
country slum-dweller more often comes to the at- 



tention of the public authorities. With summer 
he is able again to go forth and scratch the ground, 
sow a few seeds, chop a little wood for the fire, and 
impregnate his wife. Everything is fine then, and 
nobody has much trouble with him until the next 
winter. Our more progressive States are now mak- 
ing provision for maintaining more of these un- 
fortunates, but at best this is only a beginning, 
though many of the officials continually assure the 
public that everybody is cared for. In a Connecti- 
cut institution for feeble-minded children, for 
example, there are 1,000 beds and unfilled ap- 
plications for 1,000 more. Meanwhile the mothers 
of these feeble-minded children are still reproduc- 
ing; last year they bore no more children. Not 
all of these children will live, of course, but enough 
of them will to assure the State of Connecticut of 
an increasing demand for beds just as long as this 
breeding from the bottom continues. 

We have now seen enough, undoubtedly, to 
summarize. Degeneracy entered this country 
originally with undesirables either assisted out of 
their own countries or emigrating voluntarily. 
These had certain latent, and sometimes apparent, 
characteristics that were inheritable. The latent 
characteristics cropped out as latent characteristics 
will, or else, sometimes, passed in the latent state 



from generation to generation to emerge eventually 
through the marriage of similar types. A small 
amount of our present degeneracy is perhaps to be 
accounted for in some other way by racial inter- 
marriage, by environmental differences between 
the Old country and the New, or by mutations, 
those cases of apparently spontaneous appearance 
of some new physical character. But of all such it 
may be said either that we know too little about 
them as yet to give them much weight, or that they 
are relatively small factors, or that they are rare. 
We need, in truth, no other explanation for by far 
the largest part of our degeneracy than unre- 
stricted immigration and the inherited character- 
istics of the undesirables who have been admitted 
under that policy. 





If the latent and the apparent traits of degen- 
eracy came to America through immigration and 
have been perpetuated here ever since, it seems to 
me that we ought to know something of the ge- 
netic reasons for the situation. Most of us are 
familiar with that great study of human de- 
generacy by R. L. Dugdale * which contrasted the 
so-called "Jukes" family with the historic Ed- 
wards family. Studies have also been made of 
other great tribes of degenerates like the Jukes, 
most of them living in country slums. Studies of 
certain high-grade families like the Edwards and 
the Darwins show that such families have pro- 
duced practically none but excellent members. 
Why should there be such a difference between 
family strains? 

Before we undertake to ascertain the answer we 
must consider one very important question, a ques- 
tion to which too little thought has been devoted. 

1 The Jukes, New York, 1877. 

[I0 5 ] 


How many children are required if a family or a 
group of families is to be perpetuated? We must 
be able to answer this question before we can say 
whether a given class of people is increasing or 

Several methods have been proposed for de- 
termining the point. One of these methods was 
followed by Professor Ellsworth Huntington and 
the writer in preparing the book called The Build- 
ers of America? and I should like to describe it 
here. First of all we settled on an arbitrary num- 
ber of boys and girls at birth 100 of each who 
would some day constitute a theoretical inter- 
marrying group. Then we said: "Suppose that 
all of these children grow to maturity, suppose they 
all marry, and suppose they all have children; 
how many children would it require to replace 
the group in the third generation?" Offhand one 
would guess that if they had 200 children, no more 
would be necessary. But as a matter of fact, that 
assumption would be wrong. 

In the first place, abundant figures indicate that 
there are 106 boys born for every 100 girls; so it 
would be necessary for our 200 to have 206 chil- 
dren to perpetuate themselves. But we know that 

2 Ellsworth Huntington and Leon F. Whitney, The Builders 
of America, New York, 1927. 



these children will not all live to maturity, will 
not all marry, and will not all have children even 
if they do marry. So it behooves us to discover 
from mortality statistics just what proportion of 
them will live to be (say) 24, the age at which a 
majority of persons marry. We discovered that 
only 85% will live to be that old, which brings our 
206 up to 242. 

Next we had to find out how many of those who 
did live to be 24 actually would marry. Eighty 
percent is the figure that records show to be cor- 
rect. This means, then, that the 242 has risen to 
303, to get 100 married couples in the second gen- 

Lastly, we had to discover what proportion of 
those who did marry would have children. In 
investigating large groups we found that 85% 
would become parents. And that brought our 
original 200 up to 356. That is, 356 children would 
be required in the second generation in order to 
guarantee 100 married couples likely to have chil- 
dren. Reducing this to the individual couple, we 
determined that it requires 4 children per couple 
to perpetuate a family. The average for large 
groups, of course, is 3.56 children per couple. So 
we see that any group of people that is having 
larger families than 3% children is increasing; 


while those who are having smaller families are 

In passing, let us investigate the size of the 
families of the superior element in the population. 
This obviously has a decided bearing on our prob- 
lem, for it is the superior elements that support 
the inferior as the generations advance, and if more 
and more of the inferior come to depend upon 
fewer and fewer of the superior which is what 
we mean by a dysgenic birth-rate plainly the out- 
look is grave. 

Suppose we consider certain groups of statistics 
to find our answer. We know the birth-rates of 

(a) many of the great groups of college graduates, 

(b) the persons listed in "Who's Who in America," 
and (c) the men listed in American Men of 
Science; and, generally speaking, these are supe- 
rior men and women. 1 Examining "Who's Who" 
we find that the average number of children for all 
the married men listed is 2.8, while for the mar- 
ried women the figure is 2.33. The married scien- 

1 "Who's Who" is not to be taken as representing the most 
gifted in America. The book itself says, "Not the best, but the 
best known." When, however, we make studies of people 
we are necessarily limited in our available material to groups 
listed in such a form that they may be studied. Neither "Who's 
Who" nor American Men of Science represents the cream of 
our population; they are taken merely as furnishing a good 
cross-section of successful and intelligent Americans. 



tists listed in American Men of Science average 
2.2 children. 

Taking all the available figures on college grad- 
uates old enough to have completed their reproduc- 
tive period, we find that they produce families 
averaging 1.75 children; the figure rising to 
slightly over 2. if we limit our reckoning to mar- 
ried ones. As for graduates of women's colleges, 
if we take the entire group (married and unmar- 
ried) as a basis of figuring, we find that it has pro- 
duced only about 1.25 children per graduate. So 
many of the graduates are unmarried that if we 
assign the credit where it belongs (i.e., to the mar- 
ried ones), the figure becomes almost 2. The 
figure for coeducational institutions is somewhat 
better than the others, and very much better than 
that for the women's colleges. 

All told, it is obvious that the average will come 
to less than 2.25 children per family for such people 
a,s we can scarcely afford to lose from our popula- 
tion; for this is a long way from the 3.5 required 
to perpetuate a family. 

Another fact to consider is the increase in the 
total population. It has been reliably estimated 
that by 1950 or perhaps earlier the United States 
will have a stationary population: the death-rate 
and the birth-rate will be equal, so that there will 



be no further increase such as there has been in the 
past. Now 1950 is not far off indeed it is as good 
as here now, from the viewpoint of population in- 
crease: the death-rate has almost caught up with 
the birth-rate, the relative difference being only 
6.9 per thousand. 

We now have some important facts at hand. 
The country is having practically as many deaths 
as births, but our best elements are not producing 
nearly enough children to maintain their part in 
the population. It becomes necessary now to learn 
something about the birth-rate of the people at the 
bottom of the social scale and to see whether this 
gives us anything to worry over, in its relation to 
a planned society and to the problem of steriliza- 

Feeble-mindedness in the race affects all of us, 
since we have to spend vast sums in taking care of 
the lower grades of our feeble-minded people, with 
the realization that the thousands of them who are 
free in our population, and are reproducing, will 
necessitate our spending more and more. We can 
visit the institutions where some of them are segre- 
gated, and see for ourselves what they look like; 
decide whether they seem good social animals, the 
sort that will build up our civilization, or whether 
they are the kind to tear it down; ask ourselves 



whether we should like to have our descendants 
marry such as these, or whether for their own good 
as well as for ours it would not be better if they 
were prevented from having children. 

Certain students of feeble-mindedness have tried 
to convince the public that only a very small 
amount of it is of an hereditary nature. Still 
others have admitted that a good deal of it is, but 
they insist that there is very little that we can do 
about it. Three articles in The Journal of Hered- 
ity * have been the basis of much of the discussion 
of this question. One of them was by Edward M. 
East, the second by R. A. Fisher, and the third by 
Leonard Darwin. All were based not on facts 
but on an assumption, all argued about a very 
large if. Using these three articles as a founda- 
tion for further discussion, Professor H. S. Jennings 
starts from the same assumption: that feeble- 
mindedness is determined by a single pair of genes; 
and he then proceeds to speculate on how long it 
will take the race to reduce its feeble-mindedness 
appreciably. 2 His arguments might be convincing 
if feeble-mindedness were the result of marriages 
between normal persons who produce feeble- 
minded children occasionally; but the assumption 

1 Vols. 8 (1917) and 18 (1927). 

2 The Biological Basis of Human Nature, New York, 1930. 



is not borne out by the facts. So much depends 
on our criterion for defining a "normal" person. 
Are we to call anybody normal merely because 
he has never been committed to an institution? 
This is what was evidently done by the persons 
whose studies form the basis of the assumption 
mentioned. When we look into these studies, this 
is what we find to be the criterion used to prove 
that feeble-mindedness is not hereditary i.e., that 
it appears as often among children of normal stock 
as it does among those of feeble-minded parents : 
a research worker is sent to an institution, where 
he examines the cards of the inmates, cards de- 
scribing the parents among other things. When a 
card shows that the inmate is feeble-minded but 
that neither his father nor his mother has been an 
inmate of such an institution, the parents are re- 
corded by the research worker as normal not 
"doubtful" even, but normal. I myself have seen 
a study carried out in this way, its evident cri- 
terion being merely whether or not the parents 
have ever been committed as feeble-minded; if 
they haven't, then they are "normal." 

Such undiscriminating ambiguity as this, which 
reduces the value of the findings considerably, is 
attributable to the lack of thoroughness with which 
the investigators were obliged to work. They were 


handicapped by being unable to go out into the 
towns and give mental tests to these children's 
parents, so they had to judge by rule-of-thumb. 

In the course of time, however, Dr. H. H. God- 
dard issued his sound and valuable study of the 
group that he called the Kallikaks. Many of the 
parents and the children of this Kallikak group 
had actually been inmates of the institution at Vine- 
land, N. J., of which Dr. Goddard was the 
superintendent; and his findings showed that the 
Kallikak feeble-mindedness was to a very large 
extent inherited. 

In spite of Dr. Goddard's study, however, those 
who preferred to believe that it is not inherited 
continued to make their own studies on the as- 
sumption that unless a person has been an inmate 
of an institution for the feeble-minded he is to 
be considered normal; the corollary being, of 
course, that his admittedly feeble-minded offspring 
have been produced from "normal" parentage, and 
that the defect is therefore not hereditary. Then 
came the publication of the Army mental tests, 
showing plainly how overburdened by low-grade 
intelligences our country is. Where did all these 
feeble-minded persons come from, students began 
to ask. Was it indiscriminate immigration that 
had introduced so many minus elements into our 


population? Well, undoubtedly this had played 
an important part, but the explanation seemed in- 
adequate. There must be some other. 

Let us look at the proportion of feeble-minded- 
ness in our population. There are 60,000 of them 
in public institutions in the United States; and 
there are at least 300,000 more who ought to be 
in such institutions, on the estimate of our foremost 
students of the subject. Then there are 3,000,000 
other quite low-grade persons who couldn't pos- 
sibly get through the grade schools unless they 
were led through; i.e., about three such to every 
hundred persons in the United States. Now think 
through your acquaintances among intelligent peo- 
ple; could you find three feeble-minded children 
among every hundred normal parents whom you 
know? I doubt it. Even if you were to take in 
mental grades up to say eleven the moron grade 
it is doubtful whether you could pick out three 
who have come from every hundred of your 
friends. It is, then, reasonable to conclude (as did 
the Journal of Heredity writers) that feeble- 
minded persons spring preponderantly from nor- 
mal persons? 

A visit to one of these institutions for the feeble- 
minded offers many suggestive experiences. On 
all such visits that I myself make I ask certain 


questions of the doctors whose duty it is to inter- 
view the parents of the inmates, especially the 
question whether they consider all these parents to 
be "normal." Their common reaction is astonish- 
ment, and they have told me that a high percentage 
of the parents are decidedly subnormal, though 
perhaps not so low in grade as the children. Sev- 
eral of the doctors have spoken of the fact that 
usually, if one of the parents is of low grade, this 
one comes less often than does the higher-grade 
parent to visit the child. In other words, the mere 
fact that the parents have not actually been insti- 
tutional subjects is no indication of the level of 
their intelligence. 

The story is the same if we visit, instead, our 
grade schools for subnormals. Some years ago 
the school authorities of several of our American 
cities came to think it profitable to classify pupils 
according to their intelligence. The theory was 
that every pupil must be educated to do something, 
though not all of them had equal capacities; a good 
many, that is, could not be got through the grades, 
yet it was possible that these had a certain sort 
of intelligence which might enable them to become 
useful citizens. Accordingly, special schools were 
provided for these subnormals. Pupils who, in 
the classes for normal children, appear to be ex- 



tremely backward, are examined by trained psy- 
chologists and, if found to be subnormal, are given 
a manual education in the special schools. 

In New Haven from 1819 to 1929 five thousand 
pupils were educated in these special schools, and 
the number would be even larger if the buildings 
had been adequate during the early years of the 
movement. This means that out of a total popula- 
tion of 160,000, there have been 5,000 between the 
ages of eight and fourteen who were subnormal, a 
large proportion being of foreign-born and Negro 

I have visited these schools, putting again the 
question I put to the authorities in the institutions 
for feeble-minded: "How many normal parents 
do you have coming to this school to visit their 
feeble-minded children?" And the usual reply is, 
"Very few indeed." This testimony here is that 
subnormal children come from subnormal parent- 
age, not from normal. To the authorities this 
seems so safe a generalization that it is possible 
to predict with reasonable certainty, when one 
child comes to the school and the records indicate 
that there are younger children at home, that most 
of the others in the family will follow. Some 
records I have studied show that six, eight, or even 
ten children from one family have attended the 



same school. It is of interest, moreover, to note 
though the fact is not relevant to our discussion 
that the subnormal parents were in some cases 
comparatively well off, one father owning five 
apartment houses, though all his children went to 
the school for subnormals. 

No, I cannot place any faith, on the basis of all 
the evidence I have been able to collect, in the 
theory that feeble-mindedness is a simple Men- 
delian problem, a trait produced by a single pair 
of recessive genes in other words, not inherited 
from a line of feeble-mindedness. There is no 
case known in which a pair of feeble-minded 
parents, themselves the offspring of feeble-minded, 
have produced a normal child ; nor is there, to my 
knowledge, any record of any pair of feeble- 
minded persons who have come from normal 
parents and who have married and produced nor- 
mal offspring, since when such persons are born 
of normal parents the latter see to it that their 
offspring do not marry. 

I have written no case and no record, but my 
negative applies only to researches in our own 
country. I do know of one exception, and the case 
is a rare type of feeble-mindedness that may, it 
appears, spring from a single pair of recessive 
genes. The Swedish investigator Torsten Sjogren 


found two types of amaurotic idiocy in an isolated 
valley in Sweden. This is a rare mental defect 
associated with progressive blindness and paraly- 
sis. He found that both forms were undoubtedly 
transmitted by "carriers" persons who themselves 
are normal but who may pass a defect through 
to another generation. If it is this exceptional 
kind of subnormality that the Journal of Heredity 
writers were using as a basis for their assumption, 
it is far too slender a basis, since this is not the type 
of feeble-mindedness that is giving humanity so 
much concern to-day, especially in our country. 

As regards the inheritance of insanity, we know 
less than we do about the inheritance of feeble- 
mindedness. As our knowledge grows, we shall 
very likely agree that environment and heredity 
working together account for mental disease, and 
that in certain specific forms one exerts more in- 
fluence than the other does. Already we have such 
studies as that made by Kraepelin, who tells us 
that an investigation of his patients in Heidelberg 
disclosed the fact that, in 80% of the cases of 
manic-depressive insanity, heredity was the pre- 
disposing factor; while in an investigation of 1,000 
cases of dementia praecox he found hereditary ab- 
normalities in 53.8% of the cases. 

Likewise Siimner, investigating hereditary in- 


fluences in manic-depressive insanity, found heredi- 
tary taint in 84% of a series of 650 cases. Others 
have made similar investigations and found a 
smaller percentage, and yet others have come to the 
conclusion that the percentage is higher. 

We have not considered epilepsy and its mode 
of inheritance. Ten years ago we were much more 
certain about its cause than we are to-day. That 
some forms of it are hereditary is not denied, but 
to lay the blame for all epilepsy on heredity is 
now no longer the practice. Myoclonus epilepsy, 
a rare form, is transmitted as a simple Mendelian 
recessive. Perhaps other forms are, too. Time 
alone will tell. 

Right here, at any rate, a word of warning is 
in order to those who can find heredity responsible 
for all degeneracy. It would not be at all difficult 
to prove that the tendency to automobile accidents 
runs in families : all that we should need to do is 
to assemble as many records as possible of cases 
where a number of representatives of the same 
family were killed in automobile accidents, and 
we should have proved our case yes, proved it in 
the same way that a lawyer proves his, but not 
in the way a scientist proves a fact. 

Much of the early work on the inheritance of 
epilepsy was done in this way. There was epilep- 


tic Johnny. There was his Aunt Hannah, also epi- 
leptic, and there was perhaps Cousin Nellie. 
These stood out in his pedigree, showing that his 
epilepsy was probably hereditary. That kind of 
thing was a simple matter to study. But could 
we turn the picture around and, on the basis of 
what we knew about the pedigree, predict before 
Johnny's birth that he was going to be epileptic? 
No, we could not. 

We have to assemble large numbers of cases and 
determine whether, on the basis of them, a definite 
percentage is found which indicates the inherit- 
ability of the trait. Studies made in this way do 
not indicate that epilepsy in all its forms is in- 
herited; but they do show that there is a greater 
chance for children to be born with the deficiency 
where there are cases of it in the families than there 
is for them to have epilepsy where there is no 
family history of it in their antecedents. 

In the case of mental disease, as well as mental 
defect (feeble-mindedness), we frequently find 
that the trait itself is not transmitted, but that some 
other trait akin to it is passed on, almost as though 
one characteristic had the ability to become trans- 
muted into another. For example it is not at all 
uncommon to find a family with a number of 
feeble-minded children, and a parent who is epi- 



leptic. In mental disease, we would do better 
oftentimes to think of it as the interaction of 
heredity and environment, and consider that the 
predisposition rather than the disease is inherited. 
But whichever is inherited predisposition or dis- 
ease is it not better to weed out the types of minds 
that have low breaking-points, and encourage the 
types that can stand all kinds of mental strain with- 
out succumbing? 

Our final consideration is the rate at which the 
subnormal group is reproducing. If as a group 
the feeble-minded are having more than 3.5 chil- 
dren to a family, they are increasing; if less, they 
are decreasing. One American figure and one 
English may serve to answer this question. In 
my New Haven study I found the average to be 
7.1 children, which means (as shown by our figures 
of survival averages on page 107) that the group 
is practically doubling with each generation. 

Dr. A. F. Tredgold, the celebrated English ex- 
pert on the Royal Commission on the Feeble- 
minded, says : 

I have pointed out over and over again 
that whilst the average born in a family 
throughout the whole community is four, 
the average in these degenerate stocks is 



seven [the same as found in the New 
Haven study], and there is not the slight- 
est doubt that a very large proportion of 
the progeny will go to swell the ranks of 
the socially inefficient. 1 

To sum up, these facts are important in any 
study of the desirability of sterilization for the 
feeble-minded: that those who are in institutions 
and are likely to remain there need not be steri- 
lized since they are not free to reproduce; that 
any who are likely to be released either tempo- 
rarily or permanently ought to be sterilized to pre- 
vent their continuing their kind ; that the number 
of feeble-minded is increasing; that the mere fact 
that a person has not been an inmate of an institu- 
tion for the feeble-minded is no proof that he may 
be considered "normal"; that there is, outside of 
our institutions, a vast reservoir, somewhere, which 
is at present turning out feeble-minded persons. 
This reservoir is our borderline group, consisting 
of many millions of individuals. They are the chief 
producers not only of their own type, but of the 
lower grades as well. 

1 Mental Deficiency, 4th Ed., London, 1922, pp. 14-15. 






More than 16,000 persons have been sterilized 
in our public institutions since the practice first 
became authorized by law. Sterilization for other 
than eugenic reasons, however, had been in use in 
various parts of the world for thousands of years 
before that time. In the Near East and elsewhere 
men have been rendered sterile in order to make 
them safe to have about the court and the mon- 
arch's wives, or to render them docile as slaves, 
or to prevent racial amalgamation. The first to 
be sterilized were the eunuchs, the method being 
castration. Similarly, the male members of cap- 
tive tribes were castrated on becoming slaves, and 
their women bore children to the conqueror. 
The difference between the thought that caused 
these early sterilizations and the modern theory is 
marked. The early ones were made wholly for the 
exploitation of human beings by their fellow men. 
The modern ones are performed with due regard 
for human rights and for the betterment of the 
human race. 


In the United States, before the period of agita- 
tion for State laws, a number of far-sighted per- 
sons were urging castration as a sterilizing 
procedure. To-day, though we may credit them 
with vision, we cannot praise their choice of 
method. For instance we find, in 1898, the trus- 
tees of the Kansas State Institution for Feeble- 
minded Children approving by resolution the work 
of Dr. F. Hoyt Pilcher of that institution, who had 
castrated forty-four boys and fourteen girls over 
a period of years. Public opinion took sides in the 
controversy that followed, and the practice was 
stopped. In 1897 the State of Pennsylvania was 
debating the subject at the instance of Dr. Martin 
W. Barr; so was Massachusetts, led by its pioneer 
in the care of epileptics, Dr. Everett Flood. But 
a Texas physician, Dr. F. E. Daniel, had some- 
what anticipated these men by publishing in 1893 
a long article entitled "Should insane criminals or 
sexual perverts be allowed to procreate?" From 
1899 onward for some eight years Dr. H. C. Sharp 
of Indiana sterilized patients who were "guests of 
the State." In 1905 the Pennsylvania legislature 
passed the first law, but the governor vetoed it. 
Indiana led in the first actual passage of a law, in 
1907. By 191 1, when the Indiana governor threat- 
ened to cancel the appropriation of any State in- 


stitution that adopted the legalized practice, 873 
had been sterilized. From the time the law was 
passed up until 1925 only 120 vasectomies were 
performed ; for some reason the surgeons got wary 
about operating when the law allowed it, though 
they had not hesitated when it didn't. Twenty- 
seven States have, from 1907 to the present date, 
passed valid laws authorizing sterilization, and 
others will undoubtedly legislate this year. 1 

The Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Of- 
fice, Dr. Harry H. Laughlin, has been of the 
greatest assistance to the legislators of many States. 
To him they have turned for information in their 
endeavors to get sterilization laws enacted. Dr. 
Laughlin was the author of the first formal book 
on the subject, Eugenical Sterilization in the 
United States. It is to the foresight of Chief Jus- 
tice Harry Olson (who established the Municipal 
Court in Chicago) that we owe the publication of 
this epoch-making book. Judge Olson had always 
been interested in the eugenics movement and was 
for some years a director of the American Eugenics 
Society. It was he who established the first psychi- 
atric clinic in connection with any court. His 
backing made it possible for the work to be pub- 

1 See Appendix C for table showing sterilization figures for 
the States having laws. 



lished, and his public addresses on the subject 
helped the book to succeed. Though now out of 
print, the book, as well as its author, has had a 
profound influence. Dr. Laughlin's correspond- 
ence with interested legislators and laymen has 
been voluminous. In 1916 he wrote a smaller 
work, bringing the study down to date. Thou- 
sands of copies have been distributed by the 
American Eugenics Society along with a great deal 
of other reading matter and scientific information 
to all who asked for material. 

The American Eugenics Society has never in- 
itiated campaigns for the enactment of such legis- 
lation; it has been too busy giving help to the 
various people all over the country who were the 
willing instigators and local propagandists in their 
own States. I emphasize this point because so many 
persons have had the notion that extra-State in- 
terests have sometimes interfered to exert what 
these critics felt to be a diabolical influence on the 
progress of the movement. Such, however, has 
never been the case. When asked to do so by in- 
terested people who were willing to work, the 
Society has sent persons to testify, and has for- 
warded booklets such as The Eugenics Catechism 
and Dr. Laughlin's work, with perhaps a pam- 
phlet or two dealing with related subjects. These 


would be distributed by interested members of the 
legislature, and the others would find copies on 
their desks when they took their seats on the day 
when the case for sterilization was to be heard. 

So much for beginnings. The next step forward 
was taken by Mr. E. S. Gosney, a well-known Pa- 
cific Coast attorney, and the noted biologist Dr. 
Paul Popenoe, who together initiated the series 
of studies to which I have so often referred in 
earlier chapters. The material they gathered was 
obtained through the use of questionnaires which 
the authors sent out to California physicians and 
surgeons known to be in touch with sterilized pa- 
tients, and of other questionnaires sent similarly 
by the superintendents of State hospitals for the 
mentally diseased to as many of their former pa- 
tients as could be reached. Besides these avenues 
of information, the Los Angeles Obstetrical So- 
ciety, at Mr. Gosney's instance, undertook an in- 
vestigation of sterilization in private practice, 
involving 420 cases of the sterilization of women. 
Finally, a good deal of first-hand information was 
secured through field workers and also from state- 
ments made by sterilized patients to their surgeons. 
Some of the figures that emerged from these studies 
have been cited earlier in this book. The resultant 
material appeared from time to time in various 



scientific journals, and reprints were sent out when 
requested. Eventually the two men summarized 
their findings in an excellent treatise called Steri- 
lization for Human Betterment? which has had a 
powerful influence on the progress of the move- 

Up until 1931 the movement was promoted by 
public-spirited men and women of all religious 
faiths ; but in that year an encyclical of the Pope 
arrayed the Roman Catholic Church against it. 
This attitude is of course regretted by all those 
who are advocating the benefits that sterilization 
will bring to society; yet they know that the cause 
is a noble one, supported by the soundest scientific 
principles as well as by the highest ethical consid- 
erations, and they believe that when it is correctly 
understood it cannot fail to appeal to every in- 
telligent, sensible, and forward-looking person in 
the community. 

Practically all of the Jews with whom I have 
discussed sterilization have been in favor of it. 
This includes many eminent rabbis, but they also 
are liberals. It is doubtful, however, whether the 
orthodox Jew will align himself with those who 
favor the practice; a few of them have recently 
publicly opposed it. According to my friend, Dr. 

1 New York, 1929. 



David de Sola Pool, upon whom I have relied for 
much information regarding the ancient teachings 
of the race, the orthodox Jewish rabbinate is the 
official interpreter of Jewish traditions and it 
would be indeed difficult to obtain its favor for 
sterilization. This, he shows, is the reason : vasec- 
tomy is one of the three methods of sterilization 
forbidden in the official Jewish legal code, the 
Shulchan Aruch. 

Says Rabbi Pool, "The oldest interpreter of the 
Bible leaves no doubt as to this. In Josephus An- 
tiquities IV, 8, 40, in the summary of the Laws of 
Moses it is written, 'Let those who have made 
themselves eunuchs be held in detestation; avoid 
the company of those who have deprived them- 
selves of their manhood, and of that fruit of 
generation which God has given to men for the in- 
crease of our kind. Let such be driven away, as if 
they had killed their children, since they have 
destroyed beforehand what would procure them. 
For evident it is that while their soul has become 
effeminate they have also transfused that effemi- 
nacy to their body. In like manner do you treat 
all that is of monstrous nature when it is looked 
on ; nor is it lawful to geld either men or any other 
animals.' Surely a clear and emphatic enough 
statement of the case. 


"The rabbinical elaboration of this fundamental 
Biblical prohibition is as follows : 'One who is con- 
genitally sterile is not forbidden to marry, but one 
who has been made sterile, whether through opera- 
tion or accident, is so forbidden. 

" ' It is forbidden to give any man or any animal 
any drug which will sterilize, but it may be given 
to a woman on the authority of a physician. [Tal- 
mud Sabbath III.]'" 

So it would seem that even the orthodox Jew may 
favor female sterilization, but not male. Here is 
a very commendable thing about the Jews: they 
look upon their laws as applying to Jews alone. 
Their religious laws, moreover, where public 
health is concerned, have been in accord with scien- 
tific principles. Rabbi Pool says, "While the Jew- 
ish law does not allow the Jew to make a capon, 
it has no objection to a Gentile doing this. The 
same principle, it seems to me, would apply to 
whether a Jew would object to others availing 
themselves of sterilization." 

Another obstacle in the way of progressive legis- 
lation on the subject is the attitude too often as- 
sumed by the legislators themselves. As with 
birth-control laws and others of the kind whose 
object is the betterment of the race, so our pro- 



jected laws for authorizing sterilization are too 
commonly debated emotionally or politically 
rather than in a spirit of objective inquiry. I 
myself have attended so many such hearings on 
these measures that I have almost given up hoping 
that they are ever likely to be considered on their 
merits. As every observer knows, too many of our 
legislators to-day approach the business before 
them in the light of its potential influence on votes. 
The same thing applies to getting such laws ad- 
ministered when once they are enacted. In most 
cases appointments to the staffs of institutions are 
political appointments. Then, if the boss gets com- 
plaints that a number of his voters are opposed 
to the administration of the sterilization law, he 
quickly passes the word to the superintendents; 
and superintendents have a notable faculty for 
keeping an ear to the ground. Herein probably 
lies the reason why some of our existing steriliza- 
tion laws are put into practice so little. The qual- 
ity of statesmanship i.e., the power of envisaging 
the true worth of any movement to improve future 
generations is conspicuously lacking in our legis- 
lators and our administrators alike, as regards their 
attitude toward legalized sterilization. If you 
doubt this, just ask any of the more intelligent mem- 
bers of your State legislature. Until public opin- 



ion is so thoroughly roused that a larger bloc of 
voters demand legislative action, and administra- 
tive follow-up, the situation is likely to remain as 
it is now. 

In Canada and in Europe sterilizations have 
been fewer than in our country. Until a year ago 
only one Canadian province had a sterilization law 
that in Alberta; but in April, 1933, British Co- 
lumbia passed one, and judging from the corre- 
spondence on the subject that has been passing 
between these two and the other provinces it will 
not be long now before sterilization will be effec- 
tive in all but the Roman Catholic provinces. Al- 
berta has sterilized more than 300 in the five years 
since its law was enacted, all operations being on 
the voluntary basis. 

In 1907 Switzerland sterilized the first patients: 
two women, 25 and 36 years old respectively, and 
two men of 31 and 32. All these were castrated, 
and they were subsequently, with one exception, 
respectable members of society; one of the men 
committed petty thefts, but his sexual offenses 
ceased. The work has gone on in that country ever 
since, with modern methods in use. 

Denmark passed a law in 1929, under which 54 
persons have been sterilized, all by castration 
which is very remarkable in view of the fact that 



this type of operation is prohibited by the existing 
penal code of the country. 

In England the Eugenics Society, headed by 
Major Leonard Darwin, a son of the great Charles, 
is doing excellent work in bringing home to the 
people the need for sterilization. In 1930 the 
Society sent Mrs. Cora B. S. Hodson to our coun- 
try to make a study of the subject and to report not 
only to England but to Germany and other coun- 
tries as well. She made an exhaustive inquiry, 
gave many lectures which were heard by thousands 
of Americans from coast to coast, and went back 
home full of information and enthusiasm. As this 
is being written, England has had a "voluntary" 
law introduced for legislative action, based upon 
a study made by a committee of scientists. 

The latest word on the subject has come from 
Germany. Under the dictatorship of Adolph Hit- 
ler, a compulsory law has been passed with his 
approval. I have had considerable correspondence 
with certain German scientists who ever since the 
War have been enthusiastic advocates of steriliza- 
tion, and I am informed that before the subject 
came to the attention of the present authorities 
there had for many years been agitation for a vol- 
untary law. We must remember that Germany 
has long known more about her defectives and the 



nation's health in general, both physical and men- 
tal, than most other countries do about theirs, and 
that she has been twenty years ahead of the United 
States in psychiatry and somewhat ahead of us in 
applied psychology. Much of our best informa- 
tion on the mind has come from Germany; and 
even before the War, that country had figures on 
her population that put ours to shame. To realize 
how much attention the Germans have given to the 
study of heredity for many years, one has only to 
look over the remarkable list of books dealing with 
the inheritance of mental and physical traits that 
have come out of Germany. While we were pussy- 
footing around, reluctant to admit even that in- 
sanity of certain sorts runs in families, the 
Germans were calling a spade a spade. True, they 
did export a few pseudo-scientists who on Ameri- 
can lecture tours told our people that there is 
"nothing to heredity." But I have often suspected 
that their real reason for coming over was that 
they knew they would find less opposition here to 
their ideas because we had, relatively, so little 
knowledge of the subject. To-day these same men 
are not enjoying their former popularity and pres- 
tige among us. On the other hand, men like Kahn 
(now of Yale) and Kraepelin were and are capable 
leaders who spoke plain and recognized inherit- 



ance when they saw it; and these men especially 
have exercised an undoubted influence on the atti- 
tude of the German leaders to-day. 

The 400,000 known defectives in Germany who 
become subject to the new law are about equally 
divided into men and women, and they have been 
listed as follows in the official inventory, according 
to the Associated Press despatch from Berlin at 
the end of December, 1933. The law applies to 
hereditary defects as follows : 

(1) Feeble-mindedness, tentatively esti- 
mated at 200,000 persons 

(2) Schizomania, 800,000 

(3) Insanity, 200,000 

(4) Epilepsy, 60,000 

(5) St. Vitus' dance, 600 

(6) Blindness, 4,000 

(7) Deaf-mutism, 18,000 

(8) Serious physical deformity, 20,000 

(9) Chronic alcoholism, 10,000 

And this represents but a small beginning, we are 
told ! Though not all of us, probably, will approve 
of the compulsory character of this law as it ap- 
plies, for instance, to the sterilizing of drunkards 
we cannot but admire the foresight revealed by 



the plan in general, and realize that by this action 
Germany is going to make herself a stronger na- 
tion. No one can tell now, naturally, how the law 
will work out in practice. By its very stringency 
it may defeat itself; or, on the contrary, it may 
prove to be one mighty step toward the creation of 
a better German race. In any event, we in this 
country need have no fear lest any similar whole- 
sale measure be adopted, since we are not living 
under a dictatorship. 

American Jewry is naturally suspecting that the 
German chancellor had the law enacted for the 
specific purpose of sterilizing the German Jews, 
but I believe nothing to be further from the truth. 
The German law provides for the sterilization of 
hereditary defectives only. It safeguards the rights 
of every individual, and where it sterilizes it will 
not maim. The measure is solely eugenic in its 
purpose, and were it not for its compulsory char- 
acter it would probably meet with the approval of 
all who are free from religious bias. 

Undoubtedly we shall now see a wave of popu- 
lar sentiment sweep the world. Already a number 
of countries that have not yet actually passed any 
laws are manifesting a vivid interest in the sub- 
ject. The interest of the Soviet governments in 
eugenic measures is well known. Russia has le- 


galized abortion, so that any woman (with certain 
limitations) may have it performed for a small 
fee by a government surgeon. We may expect 
sterilization laws to be enacted there before long 
if the interest manifested by Russian scientists and 
legislators is any indication. The Japanese, too, 
are in close touch with the situation. In 1929 the 
American Eugenics Society sent Professor Ros- 
well H. Johnson to Japan to study the eugenic 
problem there, and he returned with the impres- 
sion that the Japanese are as keenly alive to the 
subject as are the people of almost any other coun- 
try. Besides these examples, the following are now 
considering laws, already proposed and drafted : 
Tasmania, New Zealand, Finland, Norway, and 
Sweden. Sterilization and race betterment are 
indeed becoming compelling ideas among all en- 
lightened nations to-day. 




The subject of this chapter is the number of per- 
sons in the United States who, according to various 
estimates, need sterilizing. The persons whom so- 
ciety could do without are more numerous than 
those whom it should sterilize. If in one fell 
swoop we could eliminate all our useless degen- 
erates, incapable of anything beyond a kind of gross 
animal happiness, if we could awaken one morn- 
ing and find all these gone in some mysterious but 
painless fashion, what class of persons would we 
fix on to be the ones eliminated? 

Because we know that any nation is great accord- 
ing to the kind of people who compose it, because 
we know that persons with good intelligence and 
well-balanced temperaments make the best neigh- 
bors, it is quite likely that most of us in choosing 
would start from the top and work downward. A 
little thinking, however, would suggest that the 
better method would be to start eliminating at the 
bottom. We should go to the institutions for the 



feeble-minded and look at their inmates. The 
first ones to be picked out would probably be 
those of so low a grade as to be hardly better 
than human vegetables. It would require no 
divine ability to decide on these. Next we might 
select the imbeciles, who can be taught to use their 
handkerchiefs and to perform other little common- 
place acts, but nothing more. By this time we 
should have a very long list something like 
60,000 inmates of institutions, our very lowest 
grades of intelligence; but we should have made 
only an infinitesimal dent in our population. If 
we were then to add to our list all the hopelessly 
insane we should be adding approximately another 
60,000. But what would this amount to, in a 
nation of 120,000,000 persons? Practically noth- 
ing. Moreover, we should have to admit that all 
these unfortunates will probably stay in institu- 
tions for the rest of their lives anyhow, and so 
wouldn't reproduce, so why should we worry about 
them? Well, we shouldn't worry very much, ex- 
cept on the ground of the money they are cost- 
ing us. 

Our next step, then, would have to be out into 
general society. Now if we were bent on selecting 
all the persons whom society would be better off 
without, we should find a good many millions of 



them bungling their work, existing meagerly 
when times are good, and living off the rest of the 
population when times are bad. Undoubtedly so- 
ciety would be better off without such, though the 
assertion has been made that we need them for our 
drudgery for the "dirty work" of the world. 
This assertion will be discussed later under the 
objections commonly raised to sterilization. 

The question would now arise, How far up in 
the intelligence scale are we to go? The Army 
mental test results showed that the white men in 
the American draft for the World War could be 
classified as to intelligence by the following per- 
centages (in round numbers) : 

4 % very superior 

8 % superior 

15.2% high average 

25 % average 

23.8% low average 

17 % inferior 

7.1% very inferior 

They showed also that half of our adult population 
is below the mental age of 13.2 i.e., the age of a 
normal bright boy of thirteen. It was a distressing 
revelation, and its bearing on our present interest 
is that, if we put our lower limit of desirability at 



thirteen mental age, we should be considering the 
sterilization of half our fellow-countrymen! The 
age of ten is by some psychologists regarded as the 
line of demarcation between the dark and the day- 
light of usefulness. Men and women whose minds 
have never grown older than that of a normal child 
of ten require more supervision and assistance at 
any work they do than the product of their work 
will pay for. Time was when a person of this 
mental age could be taught to sit at a punch press 
and feed it, but the need for this sort of work is 

There are several ways of estimating the num- 
ber of feeble-minded persons. The Army mental 
tests, though often criticized, do nevertheless fur- 
nish a reasonable index of mentality, and they show 
us that 4,800,000 men in the white draft had an 
I.Q. (intelligence quotient) below .70. The intel- 
ligence quotient is arrived at by dividing the 
mental age of the person by his chronological age; 
as, for example, a young man of 19 whose mental 
age is only 13 has an I.Q. of .68, and a man of 23 
whose mental age is 15 has an I.Q. of .65. This 
group of 4,800,000 white American adults, there- 
fore, with an I.Q. of .70 have less than three- 
fourths of the intelligence they should have to be 
called normal. Because an I.Q. of .70 means a low 


mental age, it is fairly well agreed that persons 
with any less intelligence than this are incapable 
of getting along without an over-costly amount of 

The figures emerging from the Army tests are 
roughly paralleled by the conditions found in New 
Haven during the study of the 5,000 children who 
had been in the schools for subnormals. All these 
were mental-tested so that there was no guesswork. 
The tabulations showed that slightly over 5% of 
New Haven's citizens are feeble-minded. If this 
condition is typical of the whole country, we shall 
have to estimate the number of our feeble-minded 
at 6,500,000. 

The Negroes in New Haven furnished six times 
as many subnormals as did the native-born whites, 
and the Negro population of that city is probably 
no less intelligent than the rest of the Negro popu- 
lation all over the country; if anything, it may be 
higher, since some students hold that a Negro has 
to have more intelligence and gumption to migrate 
from his Southland than he needs to stay in it. If 
this is so, something like a eugenic selection has 
taken place. Let us hope, however, that the New 
Haven figures are not typical. The book Army 
Mental Tests by Yoakum and Yerkes has this to 



The comparison of Negro with white 
recruits reveals markedly lower mental 
ratings for the former. A further sig- 
nificant difference based on geographical 
classification has been noted in that the 
northern Negroes are mentally much su- 
perior to the southern. 

Thus, if we add the Negro total of feeble-mind- 
edness to the white, we raise our number still 
higher. Even if we do not, however, there is an- 
other addition that we cannot avoid making: the 
4,800,000 persons in the United States who before 
they die will be classified as insane. Lest any one 
doubt this statement, here are some facts. In our 
asylums there are 300,000 inmates at any given 
time, and the turnover is so rapid that two patients 
are admitted for every one patient who is dis- 
charged, 80,000 new patients being admitted 
annually. Death also takes a good many. One per- 
son out of every 25 becomes an inmate of a State 
hospital for mental defectives during the course 
of every generation; one family in every seven is 

But no less an authority than Dr. C. Floyd Havi- 
land, who was Commissioner of Health for New 
York and director of the Manhattan State Hos- 


pital, estimated that there are five to six times as 
many mentally diseased persons outside of institu- 
tions as there are in them. If all were committed, 
the number of our mentally diseased in institutions 
would be 1,800,000. 

Without doubt the foreign-born have had a good 
deal to do with the size of these figures, and for 
this fact we may largely blame our lax immigra- 
tion laws. The foreign-born furnish in some cases 
as much as six times as many feeble-minded as na- 
tives do, while as for the mentally diseased the 
foreign-born (averaging all nationalities) furnish 
175 for each 100 native-born. 

There are two-thirds as many mental defectives 
confined in our public institutions as there are stu- 
dents enrolled in the regular college courses in the 
United States. 

Suppose we look at the problem from another 
angle. Let us think of the criminals. Do they 
come from the best homes, or from inferior homes? 
If we tend to pity the criminal because he has 
come from the wrong kind of early environment, 
let us ask what type of parents have produced that 
environment for him? It is from the typical en- 
vironment of the mentally low-grade that both our 
city gangs and our criminals are derived. It is 
these border-line elements that make up our slums, 


and this is true in spite of the occasional exceptions 
found in gifted writers and other artists; for the 
latter do not as a rule emerge from people who 
have spent three generations as slum-dwellers 
they are more likely to come from the families of 
recent immigrants in whom the skimming process 
has not yet begun. 

If we could purge the country of our typical 
slum elements, in city and country alike, what harm 
would be done? Why would it not be well worth 
while to include them in the group whom we are 
weeding out of the population garden? And how 
many of them are there? Nobody knows. This 
addition to our list could hardly be counted exactly. 

Including all the various types of less useful 
social elements, we should probably be disposing 
of the lowest fourth of our population ; and, after 
the economic adjustment, we should hardly miss 
them. But I am not here suggesting that all these 
be sterilized wholesale, but merely that we make 
voluntary sterilization available to them. 

It is for this reason that I am somewhat in sym- 
pathy with those who ask : Suppose in a few cases 
we do sterilize some person who is not likely to 
pass dysgenic traits on? Suppose we do make a 
mistake occasionally and sterilize somebody whose 
subnormality is due to accident and not to heredity? 


What's the difference? Whether we believe that 
the subnormality is traceable to heredity or to 
environment, what we want is good children in 
good homes. Degenerate parents cannot bring 
children up properly. What harm if they become 

Judge Harry Olson of Chicago, whom I have 
mentioned before, was once asked to speak at an 
important meeting. Ahead of his speech two other 
numbers appeared on the program. First a woman 
speaker rose, holding a bag, which she presently 
opened, drawing forth some baby things. These 
she held up, one at a time, while she told of the 
good work that her Society was doing in rescuing 
abandoned waifs, of the money that was needed 
for their reclamation, and of how the homes in 
which these children were placed were molding 
their characters so that they would become fine 
men and women. The good old appeal ! People 
open their hearts and their pocketbooks when it 
is made. 

Following her, a man sang Henley's famous 
poem, Invictus. Then Judge Olson was intro- 
duced. He came forward, with that well-known 
dignity, that calm, compassionate expression, and 
for a moment stood silent. Then he said: "My 
friends, my subject has been announced as The 


Prevention of Crime. But I have just now de- 
cided that I am not going to speak on that subject. 
We have all heard a beautiful rendering of Hen- 
ley's poem, and I am going to speak on a subject 
that it suggests to me: 'I am not the master of my 
fate I am not the captain of my soul !' ' And 
there followed an extemporaneous speech that will 
never be forgotten by the audience that heard it. 
Judge Olson was right: there are millions of 
Americans who are not never have been the 
controllers of their own destinies ; through heredity 
or through environment they have all their lives 
been "bound in misery and iron." And when I 
begin to weigh this question of heredity vs. environ- 
ment as a determining factor, I always think of 
Judge Olson and of one other man. When Olson 
then Mr. Olson was in the State Attorney's 
office he was considered a prosecutor of great 
promise. Contending against him was another 
promising young man named Clarence Darrow. 
Mr. Darrow has told me that Olson was the smart- 
est prosecutor he ever had to meet; and Judge 
Olson tells me that Darrow was the cleverest, ablest 
defense attorney he ever argued against. In his 
earlier days Olson was given to stressing heredity 
as the predisposing cause of crime, while Darrow 
insisted on environment; since then, each man has 


shifted his position somewhat. I mention these 
facts as preface to the interesting coincidence that 
Mr. Darrow without dreaming that Judge Olson 
had ever done so before him also spoke once on 
this same text: "I am not the master of my fate 
I am not the captain of my soul." 

To say that to-day both men, having changed 
their views considerably, hold that heredity and 
environment are perhaps equally important as de- 
terminants is only to say that they are probably 
representative of the majority of us. It seems to 
me immaterial whether we hold that a boy is a bad 
citizen because he has inherited bad traits from his 
forebears or whether we blame his childhood en- 
vironment for these; in either case, if he is the 
child of bad parents he has not had the right start, 
and they ought never to have produced him. His 
start must come from his parents, and whether his 
subsequent useless or vicious life is the result of 
germ-plasm or of their inability to rear him right 
makes no difference : sterilizing them will prevent 
their launching other potential defectives or crimi- 
nals to burden our civilization. 

In the case of such children it is too late to think 
of their heredity or their environment if we wait 
until they are grown. Since they did not "choose 
good grandparents," as the first Oliver Wendell 



Holmes advised us all to do, there remains now, 
apparently, only the resource of sterilization if we 
are to help future generations to be freed of the 
effects of that bad heredity or that bad environment. 
I say "apparently" because in subsequent chapters 
I propose to show that there are other ways of 
attacking the problem than any such wholesale 
compulsory sterilization as is implied in the elimi- 
nation of the ten millions of our population whom 
we should be able to get along without. 





In Virginia they sterilized Carrie Buck. But 
before they got her sterilized, a storm of litigation 
had risen and raged, not to be stilled until the Su- 
preme Court of the United States handed down a 
decision which made history. 

In Carrie's case the operation was compulsory, 
and what had to be established first was whether 
or not she was feeble-minded. It was proved that 
she was ; mental tests showed that though she was 
1 8 years old chronologically she was only about 
9 years old mentally. It then became relevant to 
determine, as well, whether she had been socially 
adequate. Her past record was therefore put 
on file, proving that Carrie had never been self- 
sustaining except under supervision ; that she had 
had a baby who also was a mental defective ; that 
her life thus far had been marked by untruthful- 
ness, immorality, and prostitution. All things con- 
sidered, the authorities maintained that they had 
done the proper thing in having her committed as 



a feeble-minded person under the laws of the Com- 
monwealth of Virginia. 

Then it was proposed, further, that the girl 
should be sterilized. But sterilization, as per- 
formed in our public institutions, is authorized 
only in case an inheritable defect can be proved. 
So the State detailed agents to study Carrie's ante- 
cedents. They found that the identity of Carrie's 
father could not be ascertained, though learning 
facts about her mother was not difficult. Why? 
Because her mother, Emma Buck, was an inmate 
of the same institutional colony. The mother's 
chronological age was 52, but she proved on test 
to be slightly under 8 mentally. Before being com- 
mitted, she too had been a prostitute, had had 
syphilis, and had given birth to two sons before 
Carrie. The agents reported, in addition, that the 
family stock on the mother's side was typical of 
"the shiftless, ignorant, worthless class of anti- 
social whites of the South." Like Carrie's own 
father, the fathers of her two half-brothers could 
not be traced. The agents found that, although the 
shifting habits of her class and family made it 
almost impossible to learn as much of her back- 
ground as they wanted to, they did learn a good 
deal. She had been abandoned as a baby and 
adopted when she was four by a Charlottesville 


woman, who had given her all the education that 
the backward child could absorb; Carrie had gone 
as far as the sixth grade. 

But in spite of this good environment Carrie 
took to immorality. This was tolerated by her 
foster-mother as long as she could stand it; but 
when Carrie became pregnant that was the last 
straw. The girl had demonstrated that she was 
almost useless except under strict supervision and 
certainly incapable of self-support or even of self- 

All these findings revealed the girl as not only 
the daughter of a feeble-minded person but also 
as the parent of a child who had inherited her 
mental deficiency. In a word, Carrie had fulfilled 
every requirement of the Virginia statute; so she 
was ordered sterilized by the Special Board of 
Directors of the State Colony for the Epileptic 
and Feeble-minded, as required by law, on the 
petition of A. S. Priddy, superintendent of the 
colony. His reason? Carrie was at the moment 
an inmate of the colony, and if she were to be dis- 
charged she would go out as the potential parent 
of still other socially inadequate offspring. He 
said that she could be sterilized without harm to 
her general health. Oral evidence was presented 
before the Board, and it ordered the sterilization. 



Then came the storm. Judge Bennett T. Gor- 
don of the Circuit Court appointed a guardian for 
Carrie. As is the usual procedure, he listened to 
testimony, including that presented to the Special 
Board and a deposition by an expert in heredity 
who analyzed Carrie's case from that viewpoint. 
The judge then affirmed the decision of the Special 
Board. The case was thereupon appealed. 

In the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, 
Judge Jesse F. West sustained the statute, declar- 
ing that "the act complies with the requirements 
of due process of law," that it "is not a penal 
statute" and therefore cannot "impose cruel and 
unusual punishment," and finally that, because the 
statute "does not deny the appellant . . . the equal 
protection of the law, . . . the Virginia Steriliza- 
tion Act is based upon a reasonable classification 
and is a valid enactment under the State and the 
Federal Constitutions." Before rendering his 
considered opinion, Judge West listened to the 
testimony of two institutional heads and two ex- 
perts on heredity. 

One of the latter, Dr. Harry H. Laughlin, Su- 
perintendent of the Eugenics Record Office, testi- 
fied that in the archives of that institution there 
were many manuscript pedigrees of families with 
feeble-minded members. These pedigrees, he 



said, proved conclusively that both feeble-mind- 
edness and other intelligence levels are in most 
cases accounted for by hereditary qualities. "Mod- 
ern eugenical sterilization . . . is a force for the 
mitigation of race degeneracy which, if properly 
used, is safe and effective. I have come to this 
conclusion after a thorough study of the legal, bio- 
logical, and eugenical aspects and the practical 
working out of all the sterilization laws which 
have been enacted by the several States up to the 
present time." 

Of the large amount of testimony offered, a few 
points are worth special consideration. The super- 
intendent of the institution in which Carrie was 
confined made some points that will be remem- 
bered and quoted more and more in years to come. 

Q. Taking into consideration the years 
of experience you have had in dealing 
with the socially inadequate, and more 
particularly with the feeble-minded, what, 
in your judgment, would be the general 
effect, both upon patients and upon society 
at large, of the operation of this law? 

A. It would be a blessing. 

Q. Of course these people, being of 
limited intelligence, lack full judgment 


of what is best for them, but generally, so 
far as patients are concerned, do they ob- 
ject to this operation or not? 

A. They clamor for it. 

Q. Why? 

A. Because they know that it means 
the enjoyment of life and the peaceful 
pursuit of happiness, as they view it, on 
the outside of institution walls. Also they 
have the opportunity of marrying men of 
their mental level and making good wives 
in many cases. . . . The strong reason 
for the operation of the sterilization law 
is that the State contemplates the deten- 
tion of these women in the institution 
during their child-bearing period of from 
twenty-five to thirty years; and by sterili- 
zation an absolutely harmless operation 
within three weeks the end that would 
be attained in twenty-five years would be 
brought about. They are no worse off 
when sterilized surgically than when 
sterilized by Nature after being kept 
locked up for twenty-five or thirty years. 

Q. In other words, when segregated, 
they are effectually prevented from prop- 


A. Yes, sir. And there is another 
matter to be considered: when you keep 
these women locked up for twenty-five to 
thirty years, the door of hope is closed to 
them. They are incapable of getting out 
and earning their own living. 

Q. In other words, you have to train 
them young, and if you postpone their 
opportunities for training they get so they 
cannot do it? 

A. Yes, sir ; they become helpless and 
lose confidence in themselves. 

A large number of cases were cited in the court 
to show that Carrie had had due process of law, 
that no cruel and unusual punishment was con- 
templated, that this was not a case of class legisla- 
tion under the meaning of the law, that the State 
had the power to enact legislation so long as it did 
not deprive the individual of his or her constitu- 
tional rights, that this operation was akin to com- 
pulsory vaccination, and that there are manifold 
restraints to which every person living in an or- 
dered community is necessarily subject for the 
common good. 

Finally Carrie's case reached the Supreme Court 
of the United States. It was then that Mr. Jus- 



tice Holmes delivered his now famous opinion. 1 
Here it is : 

We have seen more than once that the 
public welfare may call upon the best 
citizens for their lives. It would be 
strange if it could not call upon those who 
already sap the strength of the State for 
these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be 
such by those concerned, in order to pre- 
vent our being swamped with incompe- 
tence. It is better for all the world if, 
instead of waiting to execute degenerate 
offspring for crime, or to let them starve 
for their imbecility, society can prevent 
those who are manifestly unfit from con- 
tinuing their kind. The principle that 
sustains compulsory vaccination is broad 
enough to cover cutting the Fallopian 
tubes. . . . Three generations of imbe- 
ciles are enough. 

But, it is said, however it might be if 
this reasoning were applied generally, it 
fails when it is confined to the small num- 
ber who are in the institutions named and 
is not applied to the multitudes outside. 
1 Buck vs. Bell, 1927. 


It is the usual last resort of Constitu- 
tional arguments to point out shortcom- 
ings of this sort. But the answer is that 
the law does all that is needed when it 
does all that it can: indicates a policy, 
applies it to all within the lines, and seeks 
to bring within the lines all similarly situ- 
ated so far and so fast as its means allow. 
Of course so far as the operations enable 
those who otherwise must be kept con- 
fined to be returned to the world, and thus 
open the asylum to others, the equality 
aimed at will be more nearly reached. 

So Carrie was sterilized; Carrie, the feeble- 
minded girl around whom such protection had 
been thrown that before she could be sterilized her 
case went to the Supreme Court of the United 
States ; Carrie, the ultimate decision in whose case 
paved the way for thousands of other unfortunates 
to be relieved of part of the burden of their in- 
firmities the birth of unwanted children whose 
coming, along with the inherited deficiency, is so 
great a handicap that hope for them is impossible. 

Carrie, poor unfortunate Carrie little does she 
know how greatly, if unconsciously, she has served 
the world! 


The case of Carrie Buck is not, however, alto- 
gether typical. Naturally the courts are not always 
thrown open to litigation whenever a sterilization 
case is under consideration. Let us take the hypo- 
thetical case of a father and mother who have a 
daughter in an institution for the feeble-minded in 
(let us say) Idaho. Mary is eighteen and has 
shown that she can behave pretty well when she is 
supervised. One day the parents get a letter from 
the superintendent saying that he thinks it would 
be wise to have Mary sterilized and then to let her 
go home. What do they think? 

Well, to tell the truth, they have never given 
such a possibility any thought at all. Now they 
remember that there are some boys in the neigh- 
borhood who often used to come and see Mary 
before she was committed, and they begin to won- 
der whether, if she does come home, some of these 
boys will be after her, and pretty soon they'll have 
a baby on their hands to take care of. What does 
the superintendent mean, anyhow, by "sterilized"? 
They discuss the question, but without getting any- 
where. So they decide to drive over and see the 

He is a pleasant, kindly man, entirely ready to 
explain anything in the situation that puzzles or 
troubles them. They begin to question him. What 

[i 66] 


is this operation he is talking about? Will it hurt 
Mary? Will it make her get fat? Will it do any- 
thing to improve her mind? Will it make her less 
interested in boys? 

The superintendent assures them that the opera- 
tion, which he describes very simply to them, will 
cause Mary very little pain, that she will be given 
the best care that the infirmary can provide, and 
that she will not get fat as a result of it. It will 
not, he admits, correct her mental deficiency nor 
reduce her interest in boys ; but if ever a boy does 
take advantage of her, if her feeble inhibitions run 
away with her, there can be no result in the form 
of a baby. Is this what the parents wanted to 

Mother looks at Father, and Father nods back. 
"Do you perform many of these operations?" he 
asks, and is at once told that a great many are being 
done right along and that the patients are happy 
over the results. So after a little further discussion 
the two say that they will go home and think it 
over some more. In fact, the subject occupies their 
minds and is the major theme of their conversation 
for several days, till at length they come to a deci- 
sion and write to the superintendent that they are 
willing to have Mary sterilized. 

The next step in the procedure is that the super- 


intendent presents the case at the regular meeting 
of the State Board of Eugenics. As prescribed by 
law, this is composed of "the State Health Advisor 
and the superintendents of all the State institutions 
for insane, feeble-minded, and criminalistic." 

The Board take the matter under advisement, 
and after due consideration, again as prescribed by 
law, they issue a statement that as a result of careful 
inquiry they believe that Mary is likely to be the 
progenitor of children who would be feeble- 
minded and a menace to the State probably, 
indeed, wards of the State; that there is little likeli- 
hood of any improvement in her condition; that 
they therefore deem it advisable that she be op- 
erated on ; and that they have received through the 
superintendent's office the written consent of the 
girl's parents. 

Then the Board considers what type of operation 
shall be performed, and orders salpingectomy. 
The operation done, and the girl over her conva- 
lescence, she is released to her parents. Mary can 
now live at home, watched by her mother, more 
contented perhaps than she was in the institution, 
running around a good deal with the boys and 
taken advantage of by them rather often true; 
but she never has a baby. 

It may be interesting to consider the fees paid to 
[i 68] 


the surgeons who perform these operations, and 
what the State is liable to in the way of further 
expense. Most States allow the surgeon a fee of 
$25 and refund their traveling expenses to the Board 
members who act on the cases presented. With so 
low a surgeon's fee, there is evidently little risk of 
graft and no incentive for any surgeon to operate 
in more cases than are strictly necessary. 

In no two States are the laws exactly the same, 
each State having provisions that apparently are 
considered appropriate to its own conditions. Rel- 
evant points are the density of its population, the 
kind of arguments offered in the legislative houses 
at the time of presenting the original bill, and the 
period at which the bill is passed. In the future 
there will doubtless be greater uniformity because 
the proponents and authors of new bills will be 
able to draw on the experience of other States. 





If you know the subnormals in our population, 
you know that they do not have children from 
choice. They accept them because they do not 
know how to avoid them; but they do avoid the 
responsibilities of parenthood, frequently at the 
expense of the community. The usual reason why 
degenerates have children is because they cant help 
it. If they knew how to prevent conception, they 
would adopt the procedure as eagerly as they ac- 
cept their weekly charity dole. Yet even they 
have but to look around them to see that nearly 
all intelligent persons are limiting their families. 

Here is a table that Professor Huntington and 
I made after studying the family sizes reported 
by persons of various religious faiths, as listed in 
"Who's Who In America." You can see that the 
investigation has been a broad one, since actually 
nineteen separate religious faiths have been in- 



of Denomi- 

Men in 




Who" per 

per man 



dren per 








United Brethren. . 








Evangelicals .... 







1, 600 





















Roman Catholics . . 




Presbyterians .... 
















Episcopalians . . . 












Universalists .... 




Take any class of society that you wish and you 
will find that religion has very little to do with 
family size. 

The figures given above show, with the curious 



exception of the Mormons, a difference of only 0.9 
in the average number of children of eighteen re- 
ligious faiths. In other words the difference is less 
than one child per man, even allowing for the 
greatest variation. 

Another study on a smaller scale, a neighbor- 
hood study made by the writer, surveyed a neigh- 
borhood of high middle class and bore out very 
accurately the results of the table made with Pro- 
fessor Huntington. The figures did not represent 
all the children that had been born, but only the 
living children of mothers over forty-five. The 
average was 2.4 children. 

When we come to the low class social elements, 
other factors indicate that religion seems to make 
little difference in size of family. The reason is 
that this class of people is too stupid to com- 
prehend the physiology of reproduction, and too 
shiftless to bother about learning contraceptive 
methods. In many cases, when they do have in- 
formation, they are too poor to buy good materials, 
and in some cases too lazy or witless to use these 
as they have been instructed to. I am convinced 
that if such people could be sent to a hospital where 
they could have a good two weeks' rest at public 
expense, good meals, and all sorts of comforts that 



they do not have at home, they would welcome 
sterilization. Their major troubles would be over. 

Case histories can be overdone, but because they 
illustrate my point so very well, I want to tell you 
about some families I have known. 

As a preface let me recall to your mind that it 
requires four children to perpetuate a family, and 
also that the infant mortality rate among slum 
people is prodigiously high. Now many people 
feel that even subnormals should be permitted to 
have at least two children, to satisfy the parental 
instinct though I assure you that most subnormals 
would consider even two children a little more 
than enough. But, assuming that subnormal cou- 
ples were to have two children apiece, the high 
infant mortality rate among them would force a 
drop of fifty percent in their numbers each genera- 

Well, there was that faithful, hard-working 
woman who did our washing for several years. 
Left a widow with five young children to rear, she 
has spent a lifetime of drudgery and hardship, to 
find herself at sixty a tired old woman entirely 
dependent on the city for support. Of the three 
children she has brought up to maturity, only one 
is a comfort to her; and he has been unemployed 
so long that he is a liability rather than an asset. 


On several occasions she has said that if she had 
it to do over again, with the information about 
birth-control that she has picked up in recent years 
she would have only one child. "It's them kids 
that have kept me poor. Why I was blessed with 
'em I don't know." 

Another instance is that of a very high-class 
couple who ought never to have had any children, 
and have repeatedly told me so. In their case they 
had had them because at the time they didn't know 
how to avoid it. They have three children, of 
whom two are insane and one is normal. The fam- 
ily history proves that the two insane children 
are unquestionably the products of unfortunate 
heredity. Even though the chances were only one 
in four that these fine people would have an insane 
child, still the odds were against them and they 
had two. Neither child will ever be any use to 
society, and both will be perpetually cared for at 
the expense of the family. The father has con- 
fessed to me that having the one normal daughter 
has not compensated for the two pathetic, de- 
mented sons. He has since been sterilized vol- 

And now to go almost to the other extreme, con- 
sider for a moment a family in Connecticut. It 
stands as the best illustration I know of the fact 



I am trying to bring out: that our degenerates and 
our producers of degenerates do not want children, 
but have them because they cannot avoid it. This 
family is notorious. When the man's first wife 
died, he sold her body to a medical school for $20. 
When, years later, after he had remarried, he was 
asked whether this were true he replied, "Yes, by 
God, and I wish I could get that much for this 

Children came to "bless" this man's mar- 
riages. They were reared in squalor, and every time 
a new baby arrived there was plenty of trouble in 
the family. If they had not been assisted there 
might never have been more than three children, 
but undiscriminating charity provided royal care 
for them. The father didn't even have to work, 
for the town's charity organization paid the medi- 
cal bills, confinement costs, food, heat, rent 
everything. It was "the life of Riley" for him 
that is, so far as freedom from responsibility was 
concerned. But family life was never serene be- 
cause of the constant wrangling over his sexual 
relations with his wife, who was in constant dread 
of becoming pregnant. But the babies came and 
came and CAME, until there are now nine. When 
the eighth child was coming the wife threw rocks 
at her husband, and when the ninth was coming 


she got so furious that she went out into the street 
on a lovely spring morning when the tree depart- 
ment was spraying the elms to kill leaf beetles, and 
helped herself to a spoonful of arsenate of lead, 
which she proceeded to stir into her husband's tea. 
It made him very ill, but that was all. 

Certainly after the first child in this family, not 
one more was wanted by either the father or the 
mother, and it was a crime against society that 
more than one was born. A crime, yes, because 
the children from that couple are of the same 
caliber as their parents and have made no end of 
trouble for the town to which they owe their whole 
support. The girls have spread venereal disease, 
and the boys have been in mischief time and 

One night a party of men, including the writer, 
went coon-hunting. Besides one college professor 
there were others from a good many walks of life. 
Something in the course of our conversation led 
up to a discussion of our sexual problems. I asked 
the men to tell me exactly what they thought about 
this question of having children; and, the unani- 
mous opinion was that if a family had one child, 
any others after that were accidents. 

Only one man in the entire group refused to 
answer then; he said he would give me his 


opinion privately the next day. This was the 
college professor, and his answer was highly in- 
teresting. He said he thought that the people with 
whom he associated wanted about four children. 
This is just what I myself had gathered from ob- 
servation of that class. I am convinced that the tide 
has turned : that we are witnessing another revolu- 
tion, greater than the economic even, a biological 

In The Builders of America Professor Hunting- 
ton and I published some figures that were the re- 
sult of a long study of what we concluded was a 
new trend in society, and during the same year 
three other investigators (Phillips, Woods, and 
Lockeman in Germany) issued similar findings. 
And all these findings are, I believe, valuable 
straws showing us that the wind has changed and 
is blowing not ill but good. 

If one were to look at the entire population and 
try to guess the birth-rates by groups on the basis 
of innate social worth, one might expect to find 
that those at the top have small families and that 
as one went down the ladder of social fitness one 
would find the families increasingly larger. Now, 
in general, this is what we found with one ex- 
ception; and that exception constitutes the most 
significant fact, I believe, that has been discovered 

[i 80] 


in this field. Instead of finding that our top group 
had the smallest number of children, we found 
that they were having considerably more children 
than were the group just below them. (Part of 
our study consisted in having college graduates 
rate their fellows as to success in life, and we were 
interested to see that their criterion of success was 
not wealth, that millionaires were often rated 
among the lowest fifth, while missionaries were 
placed in the first fifth of the group.) In all we 
had 2,400 men to study and, when we had com- 
pleted the tabulation, we found that the predictions 
of population experts were all awry. 

Percent Percent Percent 

married, or having 1 having 3 

married but or 2 cnil- or more 

no children dren children 

1 Most successful. . 4.9 6.1 9.0 

2 Successful 5.7 7.4 6.9 

3 Average 6.4 7.7 5.9 

4 Relatively unsuc- 

cessful 10.0 6.2 3.6 

5 Least successful .. 12.3 5.4 2.3 

For if we took the men of the top fifth we found 
that they were more often married, more often 
had at least one child, and had far more children 
than the lowest fifth (or any other fifth, for that 



matter). When we came to consider any group 
of intelligent persons, such as ministers, lawyers, 
physicians, college professors, business men, engi- 
neers, etc., the most successful had the largest fam- 
ilies, and the trend was downward, with the 
lowest fifth having the smallest families. (The 
table appears on page 181.) 

This proves that a movement in the right direc- 
tion has started : instead of wanting one child only, 
these high-class people whose children are a mat- 
ter of choice rather than of chance have had more 
than a single child. Another indication is found 
in the answers given by a group of college students 
who were asked to say how many children they 
believed constituted an ideal family. The major- 
ity of the men replied, "One boy and one girl." 
This was in 1920. The question was asked again 
two years ago of another and later class of male 
students, and the reply this time was, "Four two 
boys and two girls." And again we are consider- 
ing a group of highly intelligent young people. 
Finally, similar evidence is derivable from the 
study made by Dr. Florence Brown Sherbon of 
the University of Kansas, Adolescent Fantasy as a 
Determiner of Adult Conduct. Her findings seem 
to me quite rich in significance. She asked her 
freshman girls to define their marriage ideals 


the sort of husbands they hoped for, the size of 
home, the number of children, and so on. Since 
that time she has been able to watch what is hap- 
pening to those girls now that they are women, to 
see whether their hopes have been fulfilled; and 
she learns that those "adolescent fantasies" have 
to a considerable extent determined later choices, 
have at least served as incentives in the choice of 
mate, of type of home, of size of family. If we 
may take these findings as at all typical, they prove 
that our educated children may be at work making 
a better America. These young people are going 
to have larger families than their parents had. 
The wealthier class in general is setting the fashion 
of having larger families than were customary a 
generation ago. One elderly social leader told me : 
"In my day the woman who had only one or two 
children was considered smart. To-day a well- 
informed woman may have as many or as few as 
she wants. To have several children and give them 
a good start in life is getting to be the smart thing 
to do." From my own observation I am coming 
to believe that many of our fine young people to- 
day are having enough children not only to per- 
petuate the family but to insure its increase, and 
I find it a welcome sign of the times. It fits in 
perfectly with our ideas for a planned society. 


Anything that we can do to encourage such people 
to have large families, and anything we can do to 
prevent large families among those at the lower 
end of the social scale both these ought to be 
done, for they are of the utmost social value. 

All the data above have a direct bearing on 
sterilization. The prospect of somewhat larger 
families among the highest class is encouraging, 
but it cannot be looked to as an adequate counter- 
poise to the unchanging increase among subnor- 
mals. The differential birth-rate will long stay 
with us as a grave problem. If to look at it on 
one side only, for the moment our charity burden 
is mounting, and if those who alone are able to 
shoulder it are not increasing proportionately with 
it, then it would seem that the more promptly we 
take action the better; the sooner we give those 
who want to help themselves the means to do it 
with, the happier and certainly the more imme- 
diate the effect. 

But there is still another inference to be drawn 
from the situation, especially from what has been 
said about the favorable tendency of the upper, 
successful stratum to have families larger than 
those of the stratum just below them. It shows 
that there are truly grounds for hope, if not for 
optimism. It refutes the criticism that steriliza- 


tion and birth-control are likely to be the instru- 
ments of race-suicide. As for contraception, we 
know that we cannot now take it away: it is an 
established social practice. As for sterilization, 
it must be established as a social practice far more 
widely than it is now. Remove the pressure ex- 
erted by the negative classes on the positive classes, 
and this tendency toward adequate families among 
the latter will expand until it actuates all the more 
worth-while groups. 

One final word : my use of such terms as worth 
while and useful in connection with various social 
classes must not be misinterpreted. No scientist 
interested in racial improvement dreams of insist- 
ing that we are to weed out until we have left only 
the wealthy, or the professional, or the highly in- 
telligent. The eugenic ideal is far from this. It 
postulates rather a society in which the merchant 
is a good merchant, the college instructor a good 
college instructor and the brick-layer a good 
brick-layer; each capable of supporting himself 
and his family and worthy to pass on his good 
character and useful citizenship to his offspring 
through both heredity and environment. We do 
not ask that the street-sweeper shall buy bonds or 
read Greek; we do ask that he spring from racially 
adequate germ-plasm, and pass that germ-plasm 



along to all the little street-sweepers he fathers. 
The best type in every social class must be encour- 
aged to increase; the worst type the defective, 
insane, subnormal, and dependent must be al- 
lowed to die out. That is what sterilization is for. 






For years I have been listening to objections 
from various kinds of persons who are opposed to 
sterilization. These I have recorded and classified 
according to the number of times that I hear each. 
Some of them are simple, terse, and pointed ; others 
are long-winded and verbose. Some have an ele- 
ment of reasonableness ; others are of the sort that 
to the social scientist seem without reason. The 
sixteen that are most often heard will be dealt with 
in this and the following chapter. 

The main, and most seriously taken objection 
comes, as would naturally be expected, from the 
Roman Catholic Church. Its head, Pope Pius XI, 
has decreed against sterilization, notably in the en- 
cyclical Casti Connubii issued in January, 1931. 
That document is, in general, the expression of an 
ideal that cannot but appeal strongly to any who 
are eager for race betterment. More than a ma- 
jority of its points, I imagine, find general support 
among biologists and sociologists, as well as among 


adherents of non-Catholic faiths; though its view 
of sterilization can, of course, only encounter con- 
siderable dissent. 

"The Family Is Paramount/' Here is the sec- 
tion of the encyclical that is most pertinent to our 
subject : 

That pernicious practice must be con- 
demned which closely touches upon the 
natural right of man to enter matrimony 
but affects also in a real way the welfare 
of the offspring. For there are some who, 
over-solicitous for the cause of eugenics, 
not only give salutary counsel for more 
certainly procuring the strength and 
health of the future child which, in- 
deed f is not contrary to right reason but 
put eugenics before aims of a higher 
order, and by public authority wish to 
prevent from marrying all those who, 
even though naturally fit for marriage, 
they consider, according to the norms and 
conjectures of their investigations, would, 
through hereditary transmission, bring 
forth defective offspring. And more, 


they wish to legislate to deprive these of 
that natural faculty by medical action de- 
spite their unwillingness; and this they do 
not propose as an infliction of grave pun- 
ishment under the authority of the state 
for a crime committed, nor to prevent fu- 
ture crimes by guilty persons, but against 
every right and good they wish the civil 
authority to arrogate to itself a power 
over a faculty which they never had and 
can never legitimately possess. 

Those who act in this way are at fault 
in losing sight of the fact that the family 
is more sacred than the state and that men 
are begotten not for the earth and for 
time, but for Heaven and eternity. Al- 
though often these individuals are to be 
dissuaded from entering into marriage, 
certainly it is wrong to brand men with 
the stigma of crime because they contract 
marriage, on the ground that, despite the 
fact that they are in every respect capable 
of matrimony, they will give birth only to 
defective children, even though they use 
all care and diligence. 

Public magistrates have no direct right 
over the bodies of their subjects; there- 



fore, where no crime has taken place and 
there is no cause present for grave punish- 
ment, they can never directly harm, or 
tamper with the integrity of the body, 
either for the reasons of eugenics or for 
any other reason. St. Thomas teaches this 
when, inquiring whether human judges 
for the sake of preventing future evils can 
inflict punishment, he admits that the 
power indeed exists as regards certain 
other forms of punishment, but justly and 
properly denies it as regards the maiming 
of the body. "No one who is guiltless 
may be punished by a human tribunal 
either by flogging to death, or mutilation 
or by beating." 

Furthermore, Christian doctrine estab- 
lishes, and the light of human reason 
makes it most clear, that private individ- 
uals have no power over the members of 
their bodies [other] than that which per- 
tains to their natural ends; and they are 
not free to destroy or mutilate their mem- 
bers, or in any other way render them- 
selves unfit for their natural functions, 
except when no other provision can be 
made for the good of the whole body. 


Now any one who has ever undertaken to criti- 
cize or even to comment on a religious subject 
knows that, whatever he says, he will find himself 
construed wrong in some quarters; and the same 
applies to any attempt to refute a specific eccle- 
siastical utterance. It is not my purpose in this 
book to discuss or criticize the position taken by 
the head of a great faith beyond the point where 
it touches a scientific argument. With nothing but 
respect for a viewpoint that is held by millions of 
right living people throughout the world with no 
animosity toward Catholics as Catholics, among 
whom indeed I number some of my best friends, 
I still urge that this question must, if it is to be dis- 
cussed at all, be treated as a scientific question 
rather than as a theological or even an ethical one. 

The preceding quotation is given because it rep- 
resents a point of view that, as a result of its pro- 
nouncement, must be held by very many of my 
fellow countrymen. If this viewpoint conflicts 
with the laws now in force in many of our states 
and with the belief on the part of many who are 
not Catholics that these laws are just and necessary, 
that they were enacted in the interests of public 
welfare and that more of them should be put in 
operation, it is the duty of all who believe in such 
measures to state their belief as clearly and impar- 



tially as possible. I refer, of course, to the steri- 
lization laws that have been passed in a number of 
states and to which I shall refer in another part of 
this book. Sterilization, as its proponents see it, 
is more than a moral question. It is an economic, 
a social, a legal, a medical question and in the eyes 
of many a help toward a higher morality. 

The family is paramount? With this we may 
agree. The family's claims are higher than the 
states? With this we need not agree. 

The encyclical stresses the importance of the 
family and every social student will concur in this 
emphasis. It is the very basis of our social life and 
its preservation in the highest form is the aim and 
the ideal of practically every civilized society 
throughout the entire world. Proponents of steri- 
lization believe that there are families and families 
good ones and bad. The first should, we urge, 
be encouraged ; the second made impossible in the 
future. There is nothing inviolable in the bad 
family. One means toward the discriminatory 
weeding out of undesirable families is sterilization. 

The family is not paramount. It is an integral 
part of the great unit which we call the state. Just 
as the agriculturist works his farm, so the state or 
family-culturist must cultivate its families by 
seeing that the better type of individuals are pre- 



served. The farmer goes about his farm continu- 
ally alert to the need of culturing the best of the 
living, growing elements. Here is a splendid corn 
stalk. Its great size and high yield of grain show 
conclusively that it has been able to do better in 
a similar environment than many of its neighbors. 
It is therefore preserved through its seed. Here is 
a high testing cow. She must be preserved through 
her posterity. Here is an outstandingly obnoxious 
weed. It must be destroyed. 

There are figs and thistles, grapes and thorns, 
wheat and tares in human society and the state 
must practice family culture. 

"Sterilization Will Prevent the Birth of Genius." 
Another objection that is raised against steriliza- 
tion and against contraception as well is that it 
will prevent the birth of genius. When the objec- 
tion is leveled at contraception there is something 
to be said for it, since contraception is practiced 
by the sort of parents whose thirteenth child might 
be Benjamin Franklin, the desirable sort of par- 
ents. But there is no rational ground for the 
objection in the case of sterilization since the pro- 
cedure is urged only for the kind who ought not 
to be the parents of one child, let alone thirteen. 
Besides, the birth of genius is far more effectually 



"prevented" by a number of other factors already, 
taboos that for the most part go unchallenged. 
Take certain recognized marriage taboos, for in- 
stance. Under one of these an unmarried woman 
is not supposed to have children ; yet who can say 
how many geniuses might not be produced if this 
taboo could be removed? It is of course prepos- 
terous to assume that it would be a wise sociologi- 
cal step or correct ethically for unmarried women 
to produce children on the chance that some of 
them might be geniuses. But if the opponents of 
sterilization really want to encourage the birth of 
genius they might do well to consider this point. 
Probably the top one percent of the population 
produces as much genius as all the other 99 percent. 
Speaking of thirteenth children brings to mind 
the figures which have been publicized in regard 
to the chances of survival according to birth rank. 
These figures have been interpreted in various 
ways, some of them rightly and some wrongly in 
my humble estimation. As you will see in inspect- 
ing them, the twelfth child has but little chance 
to survive compared with the first or third. But 
this entirely leaves out of consideration any ap- 
proximation of the mentality of the family which 
to-day produces twelve children, after they have 
watched one after another of them die. 



115 die if they are first children. 
200 die if they are sixth children. 
300 die if they are twelfth children. 
395 die if they are fifteenth children. 

Probably the fathers and mothers who have had 
the large families and have reared so few of the 
children are not those who can be counted on to 
produce genius. They would probably welcome 

Besides, no one is suggesting the sterilization of 
the kind of people from whom we may reasonably 
expect geniuses to be born. The stock from which 
genius springs is not degenerate, and it is the de- 
generate whom it is proposed to sterilize. It is 
admittedly possible (though rare) for genius to be 
born from insane parentage; it is highly improba- 
ble, to put it mildly, for genius to be born from 
feeble-minded parentage. Great men have risen 
from unfortunate environments; they have practi- 
cally never risen from defective germ-plasm. 

That the objectors on this score have little to fear 
is proved by the studies of Dr. Louis Terman, Dr. 
Catherine Cox Miles, and Professor Raymond 
Pearl. Dr. Terman chose for study the thousand 
most brilliant children in the California schools. 
Among the facts discovered was this: that 66% 



of these children came from fathers who were 
either professional men or engaged in the higher 
types of occupation, and that only one child was 
the offspring of unskilled labor this father being 
an ambitious man who had moved his family to 
Berkeley so that the children could go to college, 
and who had taken a job on a farm in order to 
build up his health and also to tide him over while 
he was looking for better work. 

Dr. Miles made a study of the three hundred 
greatest geniuses of history, and found that 80% 
of them sprang from professional men and those 
engaged in the higher occupations, and that only 
i% came from unskilled labor. 

Professor Pearl of Johns Hopkins studied the 
biographies of all persons included in the Ency- 
clopaedia Britannica important enough to be given 
each an entire page or more, trying to determine 
how many of these had sons who were also included 
in the work. For instance, there were 63 philoso- 
phers, of whom only 18 were recorded as having 
married; but three of the sons from these 18 mar- 
riages (a ratio of 6 to i ) got into the Encyclopedia. 
Or, if we take the whole number of philosophers 
treated that is, 60 without sons, 3 with the ratio 
becomes 21 to i. Compare either ratio with what 
we find in the population at large: does one son 


among every 6 (or even 21) fathers get into the 
Encyclopedia Britannica? "Like father, like 
son." To conclude, I may say that there is as little 
chance that you can breed genius out of subnormals 
as that you can breed a Man o f War out of a line 
of Shetland ponies. 

"We Know Too Little as Yet." The objection 
heard next oftenest is that our knowledge of hered- 
ity is not yet complete or accurate enough to war- 
rant us in doing much sterilization, hardly more 
than a few subjects here and there. To this I reply 
merely that it isn't so. We have three ways of 
deciding when sterilization is indicated. First, it 
is possible to recognize the great majority of de- 
generacy-carriers because they commonly exhibit 
the signs. Second, a study of near kin will help us : 
if we find that Grandmother and Uncle Rob, Aunt 
Hattie and Cousin Randolph and Mother's brother 
Bill were all feeble-minded, it is a safe bet that 
Mother is a carrier; she inherits the germ-plasm 
that has shown itself capable of producing a good 
many feeble-minded out of the few chances that 
it had to show what it could do. Third, we are 
able to judge by the first or the second child in a 
family. If a couple have produced two feeble- 
minded children, and the index of near kin shows 
that there has been a lot of feeble-mindedness on 


both sides, then surely this couple should not be 
allowed to launch any more children into the 
world, even though the chances are only one in 
four that the next child will be feeble-minded. 
These three criteria give us ample ground on 
which to set up a sterilization policy. In any in- 
stance in which there might be doubt whether 
sterilization is called for, the three could be ap- 
plied simultaneously. If a family will apply them 
to its own case it can readily decide whether there 
ought to be any more children, or for that matter 
whether the man and his wife ought to have any 
children at all. 

It is characteristic of those who protest that "we 
know too little as yet" to urge us also to "wait and 
see." Another usual corollary is that sterilization 
isn't proved to be necessary at the present time. 
This is a line of argument that we find presented 
by Dr. J. H. Landman, whose position I should 
like to discuss here. His book, Human Steriliza- 
tion? indicates that he has made use of a valuable 
contribution to the subject written by Dr. Neil A. 
Dayton. 2 The tables in Dr. Dayton's paper show 

1 New York, 1932. 

2 Mortality in Mental Deficiency over a Fourteen-year Period 
in Massachusetts. Proceedings of the American Assn. for the 
Study of the Feeble-minded, vol. 36, 1931. 



that the idiots and the imbeciles have so high a 
death-rate that there is but little likelihood of their 
leaving enough descendants to perpetuate them- 
selves as groups. We learned this also from the 
California studies. But if Dr. Landman had read 
Dr. Dayton's work carefully he would have seen 
that Dr. Dayton says that the morons are the ones 
who do live, and that the death-rate of males and 
females averages about the same as that of the gen- 
eral population. It has not to my knowledge been 
suggested by advocates of sterilization, that the 
idiots and imbeciles are perpetuating their kind 
enough to increase as a group. We have already 
seen that they come predominantly from the moron 
and the border-line classes. This objection is 

"There is nothing to worry about let us wait." 
Another very important objection, but one not 
so often raised, is that there is not much to worry 
about. Dr. Landman mentions me as a pessimistic 
eugenicist because I say that we are breeding from 
the bottom. But the doctor forgets that I have 
offered a remedy, whereas he thinks that nothing 
much can be done about it. Which of us two, I 
ask, is the pessimist? He would show that the be- 
liefs and claims of eugenicists are more or less 



groundless. But he has founded his belief on the 
studies already dealt with studies which assumed 
that feeble-mindedness is a simple Mendelian char- 
acter. He, like so many others, is an apostle of 
the god WAIT. "Wait until we know more ; science 
doesn't know enough yet." Every time I hear that 
objection, I feel like taking my pen and writing : 
"It isn't that science doesn't know enough. The 
trouble is that the critic doesn't know how much 
science really does know." 

As a matter of fact, science never really will 
know all we wish it could demonstrate to us. No 
matter how much we progress, there will always 
be those worshipers of WAIT. I can't help quot- 
ing Dr. Leonard Darwin in this regard: "To prove 
that our powers of doing good are limited to cer- 
tain directions has always appeared to me to be the 
feeblest of all excuses for neglecting to do such 
good as is open to us!" 

"The Wrong Persons Will Get Sterilized." In 
line with the objection that we cannot know who 
are the right persons to be sterilized is the next: 
that the wrong persons will have the operation 
performed on them. Who, we are asked, is going 
to be selected to pass judgment? The objection re- 
veals, on the part of those who make it, a less than 



sufficient understanding of the procedure now fol- 
lowed in the States in which sterilization is already 
authorized by law. They raise in their minds a 
bugaboo that has not and never could have any real 
existence: the vision of some beautiful and culti- 
vated woman, say, who somehow has incurred the 
malice of a person of influence, and who now stands 
before the bench of yet another vindictive and 
powerful authority who is empowered to say 
whether or not her line may go on. But nobody 
who knows anything about the subject dreams of 
setting up any legal procedure in which a risk like 
this could arise. It is proposed to authorize and 
permit the sterilization of the subnormal only, and 
as has often been said "You can tell them walk- 
ing down the street." You can. The feeble- 
minded shuffle along, looking half-dead a good 
deal of the time, wearing the expression of lethar- 
gic despair that we visualize when we read The 
Man with the Hoe. A few of them are content, 
as animals are content; a few are even cheerful, 
and able to do elementary tasks ; but even these for 
the most part can be identified positively through 
mental tests and observation. 

Should sterilization ever become compulsory, 
there will be practically no chance even then for 
the wrong person to get sterilized. A committee 



of experts would examine any person whom it was 
proposed to sterilize, and geneticists would pass on 
the desirability of his being allowed to reproduce; 
and the ultimate decision would in practically all 
cases be as fair and as certain as any human deci- 
sion ever can be. There would, of course, be 
doubtful cases, and these would be given the benefit 
of the doubt. The only persons actually sterilized 
would be those about whom there has been no diffi- 
culty in deciding. 

"The Sterilizing Power Would Be Abused!' 
Here is another bugaboo: there would be times 
when the power would be abused. Well, there 
might. But when one admits this, one is admitting 
merely something that characterizes every aspect 
of the police power of the state. Authority of any 
kind is abused, often, but this does not deter the 
body politic from vesting authority in certain offi- 
cials whose job is the administration of measures 
that in themselves are right. In anticipation of 
this very danger, a part of the sterilization pro- 
gram is the setting-up of a series of checks, such 
as we have already seen at work in Carrie Buck's 
case and that of our hypothetical Mary in Idaho. 
Anyhow, what would happen to the official who 
took advantage of his authority to order steriliza- 



tion for somebody who didn't need it? Public 
attack would be prompt, and from high enough 
quarters to assure him the loss of his prestige and 
perhaps even of his job itself. Besides, the only 
persons who ought to be given this power of de- 
cision are scientists trained to arrive at judgments 
without fear or favor. Scientists take their work 
seriously; anybody who has had any scientists 
among his friends will bear witness to this. And 
scientists are not going to risk making mistakes. 

But what if they do? Suppose that once in a 
while they do fall into error. Ah, it is here that 
our existing laws have proved to be so wise. Be- 
fore the operation can be carried out, the patient 
has the full opportunity to present his case in court. 
All sorts of safeguards are thrown about him, as 
we saw in the Buck case. Already we have a good 
many scientific men whom we can trust, and the 
more sterilizations there are in the future, the 
greater will be our proportion of high-grade men. 
As you lop off stupidity and insanity you auto- 
matically increase the proportion of ability. 

Finally: we are willing to trust human lives to 
our courts in the matter of capital punishment; why 
not, then, in something far less serious? Certainly 
an error in a sterilization order is less repugnant 
to our notions of justice than the execution of an 



innocent man, a chance that we all face without 
getting excited. 

"Sterilization Will Increase Immorality." This 
objection stands sixth on my list, in the order of 
frequency. Well, one can easily see how a man 
who has been sterilized might, now that he is rid 
of the need for caution, tend to become sexually 
promiscuous. But among the men of my acquaint- 
ance who have had the operation I know of none 
who has been affected in this way. Anyhow, isn't 
it a pretty shameful assumption that the only rea- 
son why men ever refrain from wrongdoing is that 
they are afraid of its consequences? That we 
would all of us rush into infractions of all the 
Commandments if we weren't afraid of being pun- 
ished? That there are no other, nobler motives for 
behaving ourselves decently? 

Besides, there are already available to the pro- 
miscuously-inclined so many effective contracep- 
tive methods that I doubt whether this "danger" 
is any very new one. Yet I would not deny that 
the objection has some weight. There is a possi- 
bility, of course, that in some directions immoral- 
ity will increase following on sterilization. Take, 
for instance, the feeble-minded girl on the records 
of a certain Massachusetts institution, who had 



been given her freedom eight times and each time 
had come back to present the institution with an- 
other baby, as subnormal as herself. Eventually 
the authorities got tired of rearing small imbeciles 
for this girl and decided to commit her perma- 
nently until after her menopause. Now suppose 
that, instead, she had been sterilized, and knew it. 
She didn't really want a single one of those babies. 
Which ought we to consider the more immoral 
bringing into the world eight children of defective 
parentage, returning home for several months in 
between and having promiscuous intercourse, or 
staying at home all the time, working at some sim- 
ple task, having promiscuous intercourse whenever 
she wants to, but having no children as the result 
of it? 

It seems to me that the latter is immeasurably 
preferable, even though the total amount of her 
promiscuity should become greater. 

One point that few objectors think of in this con- 
nection is that the woman by herself cannot be 
"promiscuous." The men who are her partners 
must also be borne in mind : if they are the kind 
who indulge in that sort of thing, then the mere 
fact that one girl has been sent away to an institu- 
tion is not going to discourage them. Whereas, 
if that girl were sterilized she might make a good 



wife for some man who would be delighted that 
she was sterile. Some persons go on to say that, 
being at liberty, this girl would spread venereal 
disease ; but I believe that if we were able to survey 
a thousand such cases and tabulate their subsequent 
behavior, we should find that actually so many of 
them have married that this menace has been 
materially limited. 

But suppose we grant that with some persons 
the knowledge that they were sterile 'would lead 
them into immorality; we should have to remem- 
ber that there is always something on the wrong 
side of the ledger in every worth-while social 
agency. If we could tabulate and describe the im- 
morality that can be traced directly to the automo- 
bile, we might be astonished. The automobile has 
unquestionably led to a great increase in crime by 
making it easier and safer; it has offered new op- 
portunities to certain types of sexual immorality; 
it has led many people to spend money that they 
couldn't afford to spend. Isn't all this "increasing 
immorality"? But does that mean that we ought 
to scrap all the motor-cars? Of course not; they 
have too much to their credit on the right side of 
the ledger. With every novelty introduced into 
life, we have to balance its good effects against its 



bad ones ; and in sterilization I believe the balance 
to be on the side of the good. 

"The Sterilized Will Be Exploited." Objectors 
say that the low-grade feeble-minded girl will con- 
tinually be taken advantage of if she is sterilized 
and given her liberty. But they forget that the 
low-grade feeble-minded are not to be "given their 
liberty" ; because they cannot cope with the normal 
world, they must be kept housed continuously. 
For such, sterilization is hardly worth while be- 
cause it is not called for. But it is called for in 
the case of most of the feeble-minded living outside 
of institutions in private homes, on farms, and so 
on and in the situation these are in at present 
there is (under existing conditions) exactly the 
danger feared: they are taken advantage of, and 
with disastrous results which would be avoided if 
they were sterilized. 

"Gland Treatments Will Serve Just as Well." 
We ought not to sterilize, so I am often told, be- 
cause if we wait a few years so much progress will 
have been made in gland treatment that we can 
remedy all our troubles by injections of hormones 
and their derivatives. Many intelligent people 
have brought this point forward ; but it represents 



a negative medical view. The fallacy gave con- 
siderable trouble, I recall, in the "Fitter Family" 
contests instituted by the American Eugenics Soci- 
ety in order to stimulate interest in family and 
heredity. Numerous families competed for the 
honor of being adjudged the "best." First of all 
there were rounded up a large staff of doctors, 
dentists, psychologists, public health officials, 
nurses, and so forth. Then we had each member 
of the competing families examined as carefully 
as possible. Well, in nearly every case the persons 
whom we found we ought to educate were the doc- 
tor and the dentist! What we were looking for, 
of course, was high physical and mental qualities ; 
but if a woman had had a breast amputated and 
the scar showed that the surgeon had done a fine 
operation, our examining physician was likely to 
give her a perfect score. The same with the den- 
tist, who rejoiced when he found a person with 
an entire set of false teeth. He would examine the 
plate and, if the work had been done beautifully 
and skillfully, if it fitted the mouth perfectly, he 
would put down 100 for the teeth score whereas 
he should have awarded a goose-egg. Fortunately 
this medical attitude is changing. 

It is only short-sighted medical opinion that 
looks toward cures and treatments rather than 



toward prevention. The really fine body is the 
one that does not require medical care. Our ideal 
to-day is prevention, and those who advocate steri- 
lization are looking toward prevention. To these 
persons, the very thought of administering daily 
or weekly hypodermic injections to keep the sub- 
ject from insanity or feeble-mindedness is repel- 
lent. If you know any diabetic person who from 
childhood onward has had to have periodic injec- 
tions of insulin, you realize what a task it gets to 
be before long. To elderly persons, of course, 
whose need for the treatment comes on in later 
life, insulin injections are a godsend. But to bring 
babies into the world condemned to the gland- 
treatment regimen for some defect is unthinkable, 
especially since it is quite possible to avoid giving 
life to them at all. Once the baby arrives, give 
him the necessary treatment, by all means ; but in 
Heaven's name let's not bring him into the world 
knowing that he is going to need it! The Rev. 
George Reid Andrews expressed this ideal suc- 
cinctly in a sermon: "We should insist that the 
production of babies be at least as carefully 
guarded as their preservation" If we begin think- 
ing about production a little more, and think about 
it in connection with the after-care that certain 
types of children will inevitably need, we shall be 



approaching the time when every person interested 
in race betterment will be satisfied. That time 
cannot come too soon. 

"Sterilization Is Class Legislation." The United 
States Constitution forbids class legislation, and 
we are told that what we are urging is class legis- 
lation. So it is, in a sense; but not in the sense 
that the Fathers of the Constitution had in mind. 
They were not thinking of "class" in its biological 
sense; they meant religious and political class 
the Methodists, the poor, farmers, Democrats. 
But in every one of these classes we find degener- 
ates, who may be said to constitute a class only in 
an arbitrary sense. This is a class determined by 
mental and emotional level. That sterilization 
laws are not "class legislation" in the forbidden 
sense was settled by the Supreme Court in Carrie 
Buck's case. Had they been this, the case would 
hardly have been settled as it was, and almost 

Suppose, however, that sterilization laws are 
"class legislation." What of it? We already have 
plenty of "class legislation" of this kind. We vac- 
cinate a "class" of children those who have not 
been vaccinated before. We legislate to move a 
"class" slum-dwellers out of their bad environ- 



ment and into a good one, building decent homes 
for them to live in. Many an approved social 
activity to-day could be called "class legislation," 
and yet we wouldn't dream of abolishing it. 






Some of the opponents of sterilization express 
their fears that after birth control and sterilization, 
or perhaps in connection with it, there will come 
the lethal chamber, and that the outlook is a black 
one for mentally deficient persons. In the place of 
sterilization they suggest instead that defectives be 
maintained in institutions until they have become 
trained, and then be turned out and allowed to 
marry and reproduce. At least one book has been 
written expressing these fears. 

Will sterilization laws lead straight to legis- 
lation establishing the practice of "euthanasia"? 
That idea has not been without its advocates 
among estimable members of society. In any 
case, I never heard or read a single statement from 
any proponent of sterilization that suggested the 
lethal chamber as the next social amenity; though 
perhaps what the writer means is that, once a 
law is put through empowering certain people to 
make other people sterile, the way will open broad 



and easy to further laws empowering them to make 
other people die. 

It is somewhat difficult to take this objection 
seriously in view of the agitation against the death 
penalty and in view of compulsory insurance, 
medical laws and the present day agitation against 
war. A great many indications show that as social 
consciousness increases, respect for human life 
grows with it. Furthermore from any but the most 
ultra conservative point of view it is distinctly 
arguable whether sterilization could be called 
tampering with human life and whether we owe 
the coming of subnormal babies to any one but our- 
selves. It emanates from intelligent people by the 
thousand, none the less. "God sent these poor un- 
fortunates, and it is our duty to take care of them." 
Is this, one may ask, supposed to imply also allow- 
ing them to grow up and bear other unfortunates 
like themselves? Isn't our "duty" to them satisfac- 
torily fulfilled when we pour out the public funds, 
and dip down into our own pockets to swell chari- 
table funds, in order to keep these subnormal peo- 
ple alive and comfortable? Is there any failure to 
"care for" them in the mere act of making sure 
that they cannot reproduce? For this is all that 
the sterilization advocates propose. 

These objectors often go on to say that it is 


"natural" for these subnormals to exist in human 
society ; that it would be "unnatural" to try to re- 
duce their numbers gradually. Such an argument 
proves a sad ignorance of the ways of Nature, for 
if there is one thing evident in the natural world 
it is the tendency for those creatures that are too 
feeble for self-support to die off. Go into the 
woods, where civilization has not yet interfered 
with Nature, and try to find some defectives. You 
will find an albino animal here and there, and a 
few that are struggling along with some other slight 
defect that is bound eventually to defeat them in 
the fight for existence ; but you will find that these 
animals, born with traits that unfit them for sur- 
vival, seldom live long enough to reproduce. Na- 
ture, who seems cruel in this respect, is really kind. 
But she is kind in her own "natural" way, not in 
our artificial human way : she lets these defectives 
die off, not go on living and producing other de- 
fectives. If an imperfect bird or rabbit is born, it 
dies. If an imperfect child is born, we hesitate at 
anything so "unnatural" as preventing its reproduc- 
tion. In Nature, the defect ends with its victim. 
In civilization, the defect is allowed to multiply 
itself a hundredfold even unto the third and fourth 
generation. Yet some of us believe, with Justice 
Holmes, that "three generations of imbeciles is 



enough." And I may allow Charles Darwin to 
say the final word on this question of naturalness. 
"The war of Nature is not incessant, no fear is felt, 
death is generally prompt, and the happy and the 
healthy survive and multiply." 

Since the "unnatural" objection is often raised 
by persons with conservative ideas on the sub- 
ject, I may here cite two comments that have 
reached me from the opposite schools of thought. 
I met a young friend who had seen something 
which shocked him greatly. He told me about a 
family of six children that he had recently run 
across, every one of them blind. He protested, 
"Such a thing should not be allowed to happen!" 
And I agreed. Nor would it have happened if 
there were a law permitting sterilization to any 
who apply for it. 

The next story representing the other side of 
the question comes to me from a woman ac- 
quaintance. To a friend one day she read aloud 
a newspaper story from a New Jersey city that 
shocked her profoundly. The friend, however, 
was not shocked. She was a woman of the most 
highly intelligent sort, daughter of one of our most 
distinguished artists, but strongly bound by the 
teachings by which she had been brought up. The 
item reported that a New Jersey woman had just 



borne her sixteenth child in sixteen years and not 
one of the earlier fifteen babies had lived to the 
time of the next one's birth. My friend com- 
mented: "How much better if that woman had 
spaced her babies, had only four, say, and brought 
them all up to useful maturity!" "Not at all/' was 
her opponent's retort; "she has done her duty in 
bringing sixteen little souls into the world, whether 
they lived or not. Her duty is not the bearing of a 
few who may grow up to be good citizens ; it is the 
bearing of many as many as possible to become 
immortal souls." 

Here and on the previous page are two clear 
illustrations of conflicting points of view by equally 
conscientious and scrupulous persons. The advo- 
cate of sterilization would say regarding the last 
case that here not even contraception, probably, 
would secure good social ends, if the heredity or 
the environment represented by that mother was 
such that apparently none of her babies was viable ; 
that rather the case called for sterilization. 

"Our Existing Laws Are Not Being Used!' 
Sterilization, it is sometimes argued, would be im- 
practicable even if we succeeded in legalizing it all 
over the country, because many of the States that 
have laws already do not enforce them proving 



that public sentiment in those localities is actually 
opposed to the procedure. I have already dis- 
cussed the reasons for the occasional lapses in ad- 
ministering the law; they are not sentimental 
they are political. Many a superintendent of a 
State institution would like to resort to the opera- 
tion oftener than he dares to do under existing con- 
ditions; if he descries in the middle distance a 
political or religious bloc that is opposed to the 
law, he is naturally likely to watch his job. And 
this sort of thing will always go on, probably, more 
or less, man being a political animal. My own 
opinion is that it is bound to go on, anyway, wher- 
ever the law is a compulsory one. 

"Segregation Will Serve as Well!' Some of 
those who consider sterilization uncalled for do so 
because they feel that we should gain the desired 
ends equally well by establishing segregation colo- 
nies in which mental defectives could be kept all 
their lives. It is not an unworthy suggestion, and 
in an earlier day than ours has been practicable. 
But it is out of the question by now. The initial 
expense would be staggering, however justified in 
the end. To make it at all possible, we should 
have to try to get enough productive labor out of 
the inmates to pay a part of their maintenance, 



and this would bring a terrific howl from organ- 
ized labor, the same kind of howl that rises when- 
ever the State undertakes to sell prison-made 
articles on the open market. 

But the decisive reply to this objection is that 
while segregation is excellent and we need more 
of it, it does not meet the real danger. The real 
danger lies, as we have seen, in the border-line 
group, and there are too many of these to segre- 
gate. If we could place about 10,000,000 in segre- 
gation camps, the plan might be worth a trial. 
But immediately comes another thought : Wouldn't 
this vast army want to have their wives and hus- 
bands living with them? Imagine erecting colo- 
nies, separating families, and keeping such people 
satisfied with their lot! The only alternative would 
be to establish colonies, sterilize one of each cou- 
ple, and let them live together without the constant 
risk of unwanted babies. 

But why, in that case, establish colonies at all? 
From the viewpoint of a planned society, it would 
be equally feasible and far more advantageous to 
allow the border-liners to live in places where they 
could do some useful labor, have perhaps one or 
two children, and then be given the means of stop- 
ping at that point. Society would thus gradually 
dispose of them. 



"Sterilization is Injustice'' Is it unjust to ster- 
ilize, as some argue? I believe that I have shown 
that there is no injustice in it. The state may 
compel the individual to do a good many things 
that make him feel unjustly treated, the principle 
being that his rights are subordinate to those of the 
body politic when the aim is the public welfare. 
The drunken driver objects when he is arrested 
he "has a right to get drunk." The insane crimi- 
nal objects to a jail sentence, because he "hasn't 
done anything wrong." And many a mother ob- 
jected (rightly, in my opinion) to having her boy 
conscripted and sent to France. But the state 
argues that all these measures are designed for its 

Even so, the sterilization of a defective, espe- 
cially one who has asked that it be done, is not an 
injustice. The Supreme Court decision voiced the 
answer to this objection very well in the opinion 
written by Mr. Justice Holmes: "We have seen 
more than once that the public welfare may call 
upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be 
strange if it could not call upon those who already 
sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacri- 
fices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, 
in order to prevent our being swamped with in- 



"We Need Morons for the Ugly Jobs'' Some 
really thoughtful people have objected to steriliza- 
tion on the ground that it will cut off from society a 
large body of persons whom we need to do our dirty 
work. They do not always put it so brutally as 
that, but in effect that is what they mean. The best 
answer that I know is that if we did not have the 
people to do the ugly jobs, we would find some 
way to abolish the jobs. Necessity is here the 
mother of non-invention. 

I can remember many dirty jobs that I had to 
do, years ago, when I was a farmer. They were 
the same jobs my ancestors had had to do, none of 
whom so far as I can ascertain by a careful fam- 
ily study were feeble-minded. The toilet facili- 
ties, in my day as in theirs, were in the backyard, 
and sometimes I had to clean the cesspool a job 
that I would cheerfully have deputed to somebody 
else. I milked a string of cows by hand. All our 
farm work was done with horses. In winter when 
my wife and I drove to town the snow was driven 
into our faces from the flying heels of the horse 
hitched to our sleigh. We butchered our own 
animals, and Mrs. Whitney often tried out the gut 
lard. We had no electricity, no city gas. 

To-day, what a contrast! We still live in the 
country, but under very different conditions. Milk, 



extracted by mechanical milkers, is delivered to 
our door. We boast a septic tank, and our plumb- 
ing is inside the house. We ride in an automobile 
or a trolley car. We buy meat that has been butch- 
ered in mechanized factories quite unlike the old- 
fashioned slaughter-houses. Running water is 
pumped from a deep well by an automatic pump. 
Canned gas is delivered. In short, we have all the 
comforts of the city. 

Twenty years ago it would have seemed very 
fine to me to have a moron around, to do all those 
ugly jobs for me. But to-day they are done by 
methods which no longer require the services of 
that moron. They are no longer "dirty work" be- 
cause people have bent their inventive intelligence 
to their needs, perfecting devices that to a great 
extent eliminate the unpleasant phases of certain 
jobs. The more inventions we human beings 
think up, the less we need the moron. 

There is an ethical consideration here, too, which 
appeals to me. When people say that we need 
morons to do our dirty work, they seem to forget 
that they are talking about human beings, that they 
are deliberately degrading their fellow-men to the 
category of the slave or the mule. In the South 
they used to say that slaves were needed for the 
menial labor. But hasn't that day passed? Let us 



hope so. Work of any kind is becoming less and 
less degrading. Time was when working in the 
woods, for instance, was not particularly inspiring. 
But to-day with modern methods of lumbering it 
requires brains to do this work, and under these 
conditions many intelligent people have learned 
that there is no more healthful or exhilarating la- 
bor to be found. The truth is that what dirty 
work there is left in the world will become clean 
work just as soon as intelligent people do it. 

"Sterilization is Mutilation/' Then we hear it 
said that the state has no right to "mutilate" the 
body of any of its individuals. But it does have 
that right. It has the right to compel vaccination, 
which leaves a scar far more apparent and objec- 
tionable than the scar left from either vasectomy 
or salpingectomy. And if the individual has a 
contagious disease, he may be isolated by the state's 
orders. If he commits a crime, he may be put to 
death by the state. If he commits a nuisance, he 
may be incarcerated. If he goes about in a filthy 
condition, he may be forced to cleanse himself. 
If he has a job that involves serving food publicly, 
he may be regularly examined by a physician to 
make sure that he will not communicate disease to 
innocent people. The fact is that a degenerate is 



exactly as great a menace to society as any of these, 
and far worse than some of them; and he should 
not be allowed to produce offspring who may be 
like himself. 

"Religion Calls It Immoral." The objection is 
raised by some that religion dictates against sterili- 
zation on the ground that it is immoral. Now it 
might be possible, if we were to hunt far enough 
among the writings of the Church Fathers and the 
Calvinistic theologians, to find some passage di- 
rected against it though it is doubtful whether 
any of them could have had in mind the processes 
that to-day we mean by sterilization. On the other 
hand, if we were to search the Bible which, after 
all, is an acknowledged authority among all faiths 
worth considering in this regard what we should 
find instead is hundreds of passages that urge the 
upbuilding of the human stock. The Jews have 
always held racial purity and excellence above 
nearly everything else. Their taboos against mar- 
riage with inferior peoples and with Gentiles were 
equally strong. They are, indeed, an inspiration 
to other races in this respect. 

The Talmud, even more than the Bible, continu- 
ally preaches race purity and family upbuilding. 
"Let a man sell all he has and marry the daughter 



of a learned man of the time. If he cannot find the 
daughter of a learned man of the time, let him 
marry the daughter of the head of a congregation. 
If he cannot find the daughter of the head of a con- 
gregation, let him marry the daughter of an al- 
moner. But let him not marry the daughter of 
the unlearned, because their wives are vermin and 
of their daughters it is said 'cursed is he who lieth 
with a beast/ " 

It seems to me that the practice of citing ancient 
and superseded authorities to prove our theories 
ought to be dropped in this era of science. What 
an enormous amount of tragedy this has caused! 
Take the attitude of religion on the use of anes- 
thesia in the middle of the nineteenth century. 
That controversy was as bitter as is ours to-day 
over contraception and sterilization. The clergy 
long held out against anesthesia, citing authorities 
who said that it is immoral not to let a person suf- 
fer, particularly a woman in labor. In the third 
chapter of Genesis, for instance, they found: "In 
sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." Conclu- 
sive : God intended that women should endure un- 
mitigated agonies forever because Eve ate the 
apple. Then along came some physician who 
found, in the second chapter of Genesis, this effec- 
tive come-back : "And the Lord God caused a deep 



sleep to fall upon the man" this being in prepara- 
tion for the creation of Eve from one of Adam's 
ribs. Equally conclusive: God Himself had re- 
sorted to anesthesia ; it was therefore all right for 
man to do it. All of which sounds either highly 
ridiculous or distressingly blasphemous; yet it is 
exactly what happened in the days of the dear 
Queen. And to-day, very few of even the most 
conservative religious folk wish to lift their voices 
against the use of anesthetics. It is no longer 
"moral" to make people suffer unnecessarily. 






Back in the days when we drove those old 
Model-T Fords, the magazines were full of adver- 
tisements of gadgets guaranteed to save gas. I 
remember buying a carburetor that was guaran- 
teed to add a third to my gas mileage. I bought, 
too, some hot-shot spark-plug arrangements that 
were guaranteed to get at least six miles more out 
of every gallon of gas. I have concluded since 
then that neither of these things ever made any 
difference. There were a myriad other contrap- 
tions advertised, too, each of them guaranteed to 
increase my gas mileage. So one day I added a 
lot of these "guarantees" together, and behold, if I 
had bought the things I could have run on no gas 
at all! 

We have heard recently that the annual crime 
bill in America is from ten to sixteen billions of 
dollars. And here we are worrying about a paltry 
Treasury deficit of nine billion! We are told also 
that, if every man in the United States were to 



drink a glass of beer a day, the nation would be 
inefficient to the extent of six billion dollars a 
year. Noise, too, is said to cost us several millions 
a year in loss of efficiency. Common colds cost 
more millions. Toothaches, headaches, athlete's 
foot, excess use of cosmetics, rheumatism, halitosis, 
and sundry others add still more to our national 

Now if you were to add all these things together 
you would realize that in no time at all you have 
accounted for about three times the national in- 
come of fifty billions, and that if we could actually 
make these savings there would be no need for any 
of us to work. In fact, we could be well paid for 
going to sleep and staying asleep, just as the old 
Model-T Fords could be made to run on less than 
no gas if you just bought all the gas-saving gadgets. 

I realize that the burden of our subnormals is 
perfectly tremendous. The bill probably does run 
into the billions if we consider the cost of the 
crime, the pauperism, the institutional care, and 
the other burdens that spring from that source. 
But I have no intention of adding any more figures 
to the billions cited above. Rather I shall attack 
the problem in what seems to me to be the logical 

Every time a degenerate is born, somebody has 



to support him or her. It may be a private indi- 
vidual who has to be made unhappy by the en- 
trance of the newcomer into the world. It may be 
a public institution. Moreover, some one must pay 
when the subnormal does something unsportsman- 
like breaks the rules we have set up for the game 
of living. On the whole, the subnormals are very 
poor sports. When a burglar broke into our home 
during my boyhood and stole all my parents' silver, 
which had been given them as a wedding present, 
he did more than remove some valuable knives, 
forks, and spoons : he left a lot of heartache be- 
hind more than the silver was worth; and we 
have no way of evaluating such unhappiness. 
Every time the Community Chest of your city pays 
for a ton of coal, every time the Charity Depart- 
ment of your State pays for the food and care of an 
insane person, you, too, pay out something. 

And all the time that the money is going out, 
our degenerates are demanding more, with no 
prospect of return. Now, if you were the owner 
of a stock farm and had a herd of cattle, you would 
say that you had money invested in the cattle. They 
represent, however, an investment that you are 
trying to make pay you something. Of course, if 
you are a so-called gentleman farmer the herd 
may not be paying you any income. Yet the money 



would still be an investment, because you could 
sell them any time you could realize on them. 
Every time a calf is born, you add that value to 
your inventory, and your inventory represents your 
capital outlay. 

Very well. Just what difference, from an eco- 
nomic viewpoint, is there between your investment 
in cattle, which cost you plenty to feed, and the 
problem that society has in its degenerates? I have 
never heard any one discuss our degenerate classes 
as an investment, but what else is it? Every time 
a new subnormal is born, we may say that we have 
tied up a certain sum of money in that person. 
Looking at it another way, we shall have to deposit 
in the bank a sum of money large enough to yield 
sufficient interest to support that subnormal for a 

If we consider only the feeble-minded who are 
in institutions, it has been calculated again and 
again that it costs at least a dollar a day to feed and 
clothe one of them. It costs a great deal besides this 
to take care of them, of course, since board and 
clothing are not their only needs. But suppose that 
we first consider the food-and-clothes cost $365 
a year per capita. How much money at 5% would 
we have to deposit in order to produce $365? 
$7>3- But, as I have said, that isn't all. How 



much does it cost to build and equip an establish- 
ment that will house, say, 1,000 feeble-minded per- 
sons adequately? Surely a million dollars, the 
way it is done to-day. Add another $1,000 to each 
person for that. And there, you might say, without 
considering the cost of the overseers, the superin- 
tendent, the nurses, the doctors and staff to look 
after the inmates there you have $8,300. So is 
it not fair to say that every time a feeble-minded 
child is born we at once invest $8,300 in it? 

And now if we add all other costs to that figure 
cost to parents, payment for damage done, etc. 
we should reach a total of at least $10,000. Be- 
sides these institutional figures we must take into 
our reckoning the 80,000 feeble-minded persons in 
subnormal schools. Adding the costs of these 
brings our total up to $800,000,000. All this leaves 
out of consideration those who are outside of insti- 
tutions and schools the insane, the epileptic, and 
so forth. If our crime bill actually is ten billion 
dollars, if it has to be paid every year, we have an 
investment in criminal degenerates of two hundred 
billions, the principal necessary to yield ten bil- 

In New Haven in 1933 we spent over $3,000,000 
on relief. In normal years our burden is only 
about $500,000. But it is only fair to throw off 



half of the larger sum on account of the unfortu- 
nates whose plight is due to economic maladjust- 
ment rather than to biological degeneracy. 

In 1915, when Dr. Estabrook finished studying 
the Jukes tribe, he made a calculation of official 
expenses which the State of New York had been 
called upon to meet on behalf of this family. Of 
course, only the expenses that had been recorded 
as official could be traced, and naturally not all of 
these. But, doing the best that he could, Doctor 
Estabrook recorded over $2,000,000. This did not 
take into account any of the property damage 
caused by various members of the family. It did 
not take into account the time spent by various 
charity workers who made hundreds of visits to 
them, nor did it cover the misery that the family 
caused. Nor, finally, did it cover the misery they 
themselves suffered. 

It might have cost the State of New York pos- 
sibly a thousand dollars at the maximum to have 
sterilized the first of that clan. Now, if we com- 
pute the money spent by the State the first year, it 
was doubtless trivial; so also for the second, and 
the third, and up to the end of the second genera- 
tion. But it began to grow, then, because the Jukes 
grew in numbers. When the latest official check-up 
of the tribe was made, there were over 600 then 



living, and only seven of them were confined in 

Mental and other tests show us that the greater 
part of the clan is subnormal, not sufficiently so 
to be confined, but subnormal enough to be inca- 
pable of doing anywhere near so much productive 
labor as normal citizens, and so incapable and trou- 
blesome as to be a perpetual care to the State. 

Let us see if the figure of $10,000 which we said 
had to be placed in the bank for every degenerate 
born holds in this case where a family is outside of 
an institution. Probably not over half of the pres- 
ent 600 Jukes who are at liberty are of the lower 
grades. I have met a number of them who were 
well qualified to hoe their own row in the world, 
but capable none the less of transmitting degen- 
eracy. If 300 are of the potential caliber we are 
considering, then we might say that the State has 
invested in them 300 times $10,000, or $3,000,000. 
Five percent interest on this amount would be 
$150,000 a year, which is what they should be cost- 
ing the State; as a mattter of fact, the average over 
the past years, taken in proportion to their num- 
bers, somewhat exceeds this figure. I think, there- 
fore, that whether the subnormal individual is in 
an institution or out of it, we are safe in assuming 
that we have $10,000 tied up in each. If he is out- 



side, the State has court costs, police costs, and 
chanty costs ; if he is inside, the State has the cost 
of food and maintenance, plus the investment in 
buildings and equipment. The subnormal are ex- 
pensive luxuries, wherever they are. 

In fact, such people are expensive more or less 
in proportion as their intelligence falls below the 
level of ordinary usefulness. They are below this 
level if they suffer from a degree of incomplete 
mental or emotional development, rendering them 
incapable of independent social adaptation, and 
necessitating external care, supervision, and con- 

The sums spent by the several States on relief 
during the depression do not, of course, accurately 
reflect the cost of defectives. 

Let us therefore go back to 1915 to get statistics 
less distorted. In that year the States of the Union 
spent a total slightly exceeding $75,000,000 for the 
institutionalized defectives. This is the interest on 
a billion and a half. They are spending more to- 

When we include criminal classes we find a very 
different story. New York State alone appro- 
priated for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1928, 
$32,558,000 for the care of the feeble-minded, in- 
sane, criminalistic, blind, deaf, paupers, and other 



institutionalized and socially aided classes. This 
was exclusive of private charity, which was prob- 
ably several times that amount. This represents 
an investment in these classes of $651,160,000. 

In New York State one person out of every 25 
during a generation becomes an inmate of an 
asylum or a residence for mental defectives. One 
family in seven is represented. Then, too, it must 
be remembered that there are several times as 
many insane persons outside of institutions, who 
never are admitted owing to the desire of the 
family to maintain them at home. All this signi- 
fies that the population of that great State is not 
so sound mentally as it should be. 

Dr. H. M. Pollack, who for many years was the 
Statistician for the Mental Hygiene Society, made 
an interesting estimate. Considering the 300,000 
persons in institutions for mental disease, he deter- 
mined to discover as nearly as possible what was 
lost to these individuals in the way of earning ca- 
pacity. After a careful study he concluded that 
the average amount these people might have 
earned during the rest of their lives, had they not 
been deprived of their liberty, was $6,000 each. 
Thus the 80,000 committed each year meant an 
economic loss (above what we have already fig- 
ured) of $480,000,000. This, taken with the an- 


nual amount spent on the maintenance of the 
300,000 ($150,000,000), represents a staggering 

Look at it in whatever way you please, you come 
to the conclusion that from a financial point of 
view degeneracy costs a great deal of money. But 
to me, even that does not represent so enormous an 
expenditure as does the misery to the people them- 
selves which degeneracy entails. 

Here we have considered only mental disease 
and mental deficiency. What about the inherited 
deafness, epilepsy, blindness, chorea, and other 
maladies? Some are more serious than those we 
have considered, but they are not so prevalent, and 
we can ignore them. 

Civilization is becoming more and more compli- 
cated. Sounder brains are constantly being de- 
manded to cope with modern conditions. That 
quality which is best described as adaptability, one 
of the most important human character require- 
ments, is seriously lacking when so many people in 
a State become insane. Yet it is just that quality 
which is needed to render one adjustable and thus 
secure in the face of our rapidly changing civiliza- 
tion. It is becoming too rare. 

Figures speak louder than words to some people, 
though to some of us they prove boring. Enough 



has been said already to show that our degenerates 
now constitute an appalling investment, and there 
is no doubt whatever that the investment is grow- 

Frightful though this financial situation is, I be- 
lieve that it is not so grave as other aspects of the 
problem. What does it mean for the more intelli- 
gent of us that, for instance, all appeals to the 
public have to be written down to a low level, have 
to be cast so as to reach the 1 3-year-old mind? 
Agencies such as the newspapers and the moving 
pictures have to earn money to be able to stay in 
business. To earn money they must make their 
films or edit their papers in such a way that these 
will sell. And to make them sell they have to cal- 
culate the average intelligence of their market. 

The most successful producers know that the 
average movie fan or newspaper reader is about 
13 years old. To make sure that their pictures and 
newspapers can be understood, they could almost 
select a group of seventh-grade pupils and try out 
their productions on them. If these proved to be 
over the heads of such children, they would be 
over the heads of half the population! 

Of course, certain moving pictures are made 
with the upper half in mind pictures that appeal 
to the reason and the higher emotions, pictures 



not so cheap and tawdry. Sometimes these make 
money. One thing, however, seems never to occur 
to the producers: if this were the only kind pro- 
duced, then the lower half would go to see these 
instead; whereas the upper half refuses to go to 
see most of the junk. 

Then, too, there are "class" newspapers the 
tabloids, for instance, which obviously are written 
for the lower half. A tabloid editor knows that 
this group can read pictures if they can't read 
print; so he concentrates on the pictures and makes 
the text so simple that any child who has just 
learned to read can understand it easily. More- 
over, the tabloid editor bases his appeal chiefly on 
sex and the emotions, which in the scale of evolu- 
tion are of course much older than reasoning 

Civilization has to keep continually in mind the 
lowest quarter and the lower half. These we shall 
always have with us. But let us hope that the 
"lowest quarter" in the future will not be on so 
low a level of intelligence as it is to-day. We have 
much more than a mere financial problem. We 
have the shame of this degradation of everything 
decent in life, pulled downward to meet the under- 
standing of the subnormal. And finally we carry 
the burden of the unhappiness caused by the 



childish conduct of the unintelligent and by the 
depredations of the ill-trained and emotionally un- 
balanced. The cost of crime is higher than any 
official figures reveal. Heartaches are not meas- 
urable in dollars. 






There is, in my opinion, only one kind of sterili- 
zation worth considering, and that is voluntary 
sterilization. I know the arguments for compul- 
sory laws, but I know also the practical objections 
to these. Theoretically it would be well worth 
while if we could appoint a tribunal which would 
pass on the sterilization of several million persons 
and thus in one gesture purge the race of a large 
amount of degeneracy. Then we should merely 
have to repeat the process at intervals when new 
crops of degeneracy appeared. All this sounds 
well, but in our democracy it is impossible of at- 
tainment. Where sterilization has been made com- 
pulsory it has not been so successful as where it has 
been permissive. Nor would it be, anywhere else. 

This operation must be identified in the public 
mind as a eugenic one, a health measure and a 
means of alleviating suffering. It has already and 
wisely been taken out of the class of punitive meas- 
ures. Allowing sterilization to become a stigma 



of criminality would be a serious handicap to its 
acceptance. Having one's tonsils removed does 
not stigmatize one, nor having one's appendix re- 
moved. Even serious operations in some families, 
generation after generation, carry no public 
stigma. Yet any such operation is surely an indi- 
cation that the person is in some way inferior, our 
ideal being such rugged health that no operations 
are necessary. But sterilization is both more be- 
nevolent and less serious than many another that we 
undergo as a matter of course. There are, too, so 
many needing sterilization that no stigma need be- 
come attached. In fact, we ought to respect any- 
body who has been voluntarily sterilized when he 
learned of his defects, as a person who is consider- 
ate of his fellow-men. 

It is strange that people seldom consider the 
value to a race of eliminations from it. In biology, 
for instance, those who fail to survive sometimes 
contribute by their very deaths as much to the wel- 
fare of the rest as those who do survive. That is 
because we cannot remove one minus element with- 
out adding to the plus side. And when we subtract 
a plus element we add to the minus. But no sac- 
rifice is asked for in this case; we merely supply 
what is desired. 

There is in sterilization a parallel to finger- 



printing. I have made a goodly number of finger- 
prints, both to show people how it is done and to 
use the prints as marks of identification. Finger- 
printing, every one who has thought about it 
agrees, should be a universal mark of identifica- 
tion. And why isn't it to-day in America? Chiefly 
because a stigma has wrongly become attached to 
it, and respectable folk shrink from being finger- 
printed. They have heard that a prisoner is finger- 
printed at once, and the impressions are kept on 
record. They know that the authorities keep files 
for identification of the criminal element, along 
with pictures. The Rogues' Gallery has been so 
well publicized that our people have come to think 
of careful identification only as a system of catch- 
ing rogues. 

It is thus no exaggeration, probably, to say that 
the majority of people who are not already en- 
lightened shrink from even the thought of being 
finger-printed. What they are afraid of is not the 
putting of their marks on record ; they dislike the 
idea of submitting to what they have always asso- 
ciated with criminals. This may not, of course, 
represent a high degree of common sense, but it is 
perhaps only natural. 

In just the same way, if sterilization is made 
compulsory, is performed on inmates of public in- 


stitutions without their consent, it too will gradu- 
ally create in the minds of most people a feeling 
that it is somehow a disgrace. Already, and very 
wrongly, they have come to consider it disgraceful 
to have been an inmate of any public institution; 
hence the many private, secret institutions. This 
is just as ridiculous as though we were to consider 
everybody disgraced who had been to a hospital. 
There is no essential difference: in one case the 
patient is sick in one part of his body, in the other 
he is sick in a different part the brain, or possibly 
the ductless glands. 

Let us never allow sterilization, this agent of 
racial betterment, to become a stigma. It isn't 
to-day; let us see that it does not become so to- 
morrow. If, however, we make it a matter of com- 
pulsion, there is no doubt that it will take on this 
unwelcome connotation. This would be almost a 
disaster, since, as we have seen, the people who 
need to be sterilized are not chiefly those in insti- 
tutions, but those at large in the population. The 
voluntary kind, I say again, is the only kind worth 
working for. 

In this conviction, I am happy to note, I am sus- 
tained by the decision of the Department Com- 
mittee on Sterilisation of the English Board of 
Health. This body of learned men say in their 



report, published by the British Government in 
1934: "We are convinced that the harm done by 
compulsion would far outweigh any possible ad- 
vantage resulting from it." This Commission 
comes to the conclusion that there are adequate 
grounds for sanctioning voluntary sterilization. 

Though there may be no certain prog- 
nosis in any particular case, we know 
enough to be sure that inheritance plays 
an important part in the causation of 
mental defects and disorders. We know 
also that mentally defective and mentally 
disordered parents are, as a class, unable 
to discharge their social and economic 
liabilities or create an environment favor- 
able to the upbringing of children, and 
there is reason to believe that sterilisa- 
tion would in some cases be welcomed by 
the patients themselves. This knowledge 
is in our view sufficient, and more than 
sufficient, to justify allowing and even en- 
couraging mentally defective and men- 
tally disordered patients to adopt the only 
certain method of preventing procrea- 
tion. In this view, as in all our recom- 
mendations, we are unanimous, and we 


record it with a full sense of our responsi- 
bility. We believe that few who ap- 
proached the question with an open mind 
and listened week by week to the evidence 
we have heard could have failed to be 
struck by the overwhelming preponder- 
ance of evidence in favor of some measure 
of sterilisation. 

Another thought is relevant here. Of all the 
sterilizations thus far done in America, only a very 
few have been performed at the instance of the 
State. It has been fully demonstrated that there 
is very little need for this, so why all the commo- 
tion, considering that there are so few who could 
object to the permissive sort and so many who 
might object to the compulsory kind? 

We are told that in Germany sterilization is 
compulsory. But let Germany worry about that. 
I believe that if that country were to make her 
legislation permissive, she would in the long run 
achieve as great results as she will under the pres- 
ent system. German surgeons, we are assured, are 
going to sterilize 400,000 persons during the next 
few years. This will help Germany materially to 
reduce her charity burden in the next generation. 
But I feel that had she adopted the voluntary 



method and trusted to persuasion and thorough 
education by intelligent medical counselors, she 
would progress just as far by inducing her defec- 
tives and their kin to grant permission, for the 
future of the Vaterland and the well-being of their 
families. If patriotism to-day runs higher in Ger- 
many than in many other countries, it is because 
it is kept stirred up and alive, with biological pa- 
triotism as the incentive. And though biological 
patriotism is a comparatively recent phenomenon 
among human beings, selfishness is very old, and 
selfishness can be relied on to do some things that 
patriotism cannot; so can altruism. Selfishness 
plus sterilization can reduce the degenerates, as it 
has already started to do. Altruism plus a little 
self-interest and pride can increase our best peo- 
ple, as it has already begun doing. 






All the Protestant churches in the United States 
except the Lutheran have issued proclamations or 
made statements supporting the practice of birth- 
control; so have the Jews. The Lutherans have 
not condemned it, but they have decided not to 
voice an opinion as a church. The first pronounce- 
ment came from the Unitarians, and I feel just a 
little pride in having had something to do with 
that. Once, in Boston, I spoke before a large 
group of the Unitarian ministers of New England, 
suggesting that they pass a certain resolution that 
I left with them. Shortly afterward they did so, 
altering my wording somewhat but essentially ex- 
pressing the same thought. 

The Federal Council of Churches set forth their 
feeling on the matter as follows : 

The uncompromising position taken 
against preventing conception, under any 
and all circumstances, except by absti- 



nence, is manifestly an extreme one, and 
even dangerous. Certainly there are cir- 
cumstances of health and disease, recog- 
nized everywhere by physicians, which, 
when abstinence is not to be relied upon, 
make the use of contraceptives wise. The 
arguments from nature and inferences 
from authoritarian doctrinal positions, 
upon which the encyclical so largely re- 
lies, are labored and inconclusive. . . . 
Catholics themselves in increasing num- 
bers will not submit themselves in 
"filial and humble obedience toward the 
Church" in all these matters. Half of the 
patients in the Los Angeles birth-control 
clinics are Catholics, and the people of no 
country in the world regulate birth so 
effectively as the French. 

The Lutherans in general are in favor of con- 
traception, individually if not as a church. And 
we may say that those people who have no religious 
affiliation are just as whole-heartedly in favor of 
the widespread practice of birth-control as are 
those connected with churches. 

When we come to the question of sterilization, it 
has been my observation that most people consider 



it another means of birth-control, differing chiefly 
in being final. I think we are safe in saying that 
the same great groups which have endorsed birth- 
control will even more heartily endorse steriliza- 
tion if they are called upon to do so. There is, 
therefore, potentially, a ready-made alignment of 
interests in favor of the project in America. 

On the one hand, we have all those who are in- 
terested in racial improvement, who want to see 
the problem of degeneracy decreased for the sake 
of reducing the misery of the degenerates them- 
selves. They are thinking also of the possible sav- 
ings, the removal of burdens from the more worthy 
people, and the heightened prosperity of the na- 
tion. Many of them think, too, that those who will 
have to bear the burden of future incompetence 
are diminishing in numbers owing to their failure 
to fulfill family-survival quotas; thus they realize 
that the burden will be all the harder when those 
who need help may have doubled. 

On the other hand, we are opposed by some of 
the clergy, who insist that birth-control be refused 
to all, that sterilization be avoided. 

There was a time when we could sit back com- 
placently and try to convince ourselves that actually 
there was nothing to worry over. It required a 
depression to bring us to a realization that some- 



thing was radically wrong. Even before the de- 
pression actually set in students were warning us 
of what was impending, but we were too busy 
making money to take them very seriously. Only 
now have we become fully aware. 

The most happy people to-day seem to be those 
who have convinced themselves that the old times 
are no more, and who have decided to consider 
that they must build again, but build more rapidly 
with the accumulated experience of their past life- 
times to help them. Those who sit, idly waiting 
for some guardian angel to come and drop manna 
into their laps are those who are most miserable 
to-day. The new deal has been proclaimed be- 
cause these are new times. 

Then why should not the people of this new day 
take stock and plan against a repetition of the 
evils of the old days? We should. If we did this, 
one of the first investigations we might make could 
profitably be to scrutinize all of the forces which 
are working for racial betterment, and those which 
are opposed to it. We might consider charity for 

Most cities have their community chests from 
which funds are distributed to those who need 
them, regardless of race, creed or color. The funds 
are not, however, distributed to members of sepa- 



rate religious faith in accordance with their pro- 
portionate part in the population. All over the 
country, wherever I have studied, I have found 
this same situation to exist. It is what you would 
find if you were to make a similar inquiry. 

Hence I, in view of years devoted to the study 
of this vital problem, offer this suggestion, which I 
believe is the one and only way to bring about a 
reasonable adjustment. Establish separate Com- 
munity Chests. One chest will be supported by 
those who are interested in race-betterment, regard- 
less of sect. Out of the income from that chest will 
go expenditures carrying with them some perma- 
nent alleviation. Out of the other, raised from 
among those who prefer the older and more con- 
servative methods, will go the funds to take care of 
their incompetents. This will throw the entire 
burden imposed by the increase of population ex- 
actly where it belongs. Just as soon as people de- 
cide that while they are willing to pay for a 
reasonable thing they are unwilling to be mulcted 
because of a policy with which they have no sym- 
pathy as soon as this happens, there will come a 
rebellion. We had exactly such a situation in the 
early days of our Republic when Britain tried to 
collect taxes from colonies who had no share in 
fixing them. "Taxation without representation is 



tyranny!" was the cry that rang up and down the 
Atlantic coast. To-day our donors of charity face 
an analogous situation : they are seeing their money 
used to perpetuate a condition that they disap- 

Perhaps this argument may seem to some a far 
cry from sterilization. But it is very intimately re- 
lated. We have such good and reliable informa- 
tion as to the increase of sub-normality, of the 
reasons for its increase, of the ways and means 
to reduce it both for the benefit of society and the 
alleviation of the suffering and unhappiness of 
the sub-normals themselves, that we can to-day 
point our finger at this influence and say with as- 
surance, "This is helping to build civilization." 
We can point our finger at another influence or 
social agency and say, "This is tending to lower the 
general level of social values." We can prophesy 
in some cases whether these levels are being per- 
manently lowered or whether they are only tem- 
porarily lowered. 

We know that, given a sound citizenry, a great 
change in our economic system can be serious, but 
only temporary, but we know too that a great 
change in the quality of the general heredity of 
the people cannot be replaced, ever, from the same 
people. Environment plus a splendid citizenry, 



becomes more or less what the citizens make it, 
but that same environment plus a group of sub- 
normals becomes a very different appearing envi- 
ronment when they have impressed it with the 
natural propensities. This is seen over and over 
again in our cities and in the rural districts. Some 
of the finest old residential sections of New York 
City and its boroughs are now slums, where yester- 
day they were populated by the type of families 
which furnish wholesome character to our na- 
tional constitution. And those very sections are 
as we see them today, because of the kind of people 
who have moved in when the others moved out. 

There is nothing about the argument for sepa- 
rate community chests which is not apropos to 
sterilization. We are talking about a race build- 
ing measure, and we cannot accomplish this for the 
whole population while a minority objects. So 
we simply ask that minority to look after its own 
people. Nothing could be fairer than that. 

Some will say that if we do establish separate 
chests, we shall have to look after the offspring of 
those who oppose sterilization anyway. They say 
that we shall have to support the miserable from 
the public pocketbook, just as we are now support- 
ing all kinds of people through the governmental 
enterprises in the United States and through the 



dole in England. But people who say this forget 
that public opinion has been somewhat educated 
by the depression, and will be further educated in 
days to come. It will be a difficult matter to 
awaken much enthusiasm in a public which knows 
remedies and resolves to put them in practice even 
though a minority objects. 

But I imagine that we need not worry over the 
situation. As a concrete example, persons who live 
in neighboring apartments or houses are likely to 
reach a certain stage of intimacy, and presently to 
talk over family problems with each other. When 
one group has neighbors who follow a more sen- 
sible practice as regards the number of children 
they produce, can we expect that group not to find 
out about it and try to emulate the others? Any 
number of thoughtful people are now speculat- 
ing on the wisdom of the opposition to birth- 
control and sterilization, and we may perhaps see 
another "Reformation" in our own time, and with 
it the realized dreams of the many liberals whom 
we all know and greatly respect. 

Let me close this chapter with a parable that 
bears on this theme. 

Two farmers lived on adjoining farms. Both 
were potato-growers, and they had always been 
good friends. One day they met on the road. 



"Bill," Sam called out, "why don't you 'n' me do 
a little cooperatin'?" 

"Why not? What's on yer mind?" Bill re- 

"Well, I been a-thinkin'. Here you raise pota- 
toes and / raise potatoes. Now why don't we go 
to work and do our farmin' together, like we hear 
about other folks doin' in the magazines?" 

"Good idea, Sam. How be we a-goin' to do it?" 

"Easy, my boy. We'll pool our seed from last 
year, and we'll plow and cultivate, and then this 
fall we'll dig our potatoes and sell 'em together. 
What do ye say?" 

"O.K. Let's start as soon as plowin' time comes." 

The two met again to talk over details. Pres- 
ently spring came, and they joined forces and be- 
gan plowing the two farms. They found it much 
easier to treat the two as one to plow straight 
across instead of each plowing his own small field 
and having to turn his horses around often, as be- 
fore ; and they liked the new plan. 

After plowing and harrowing came planting. 
One morning the men brought the potato-planters 
out from the sheds. Bill drifted over to see how 
Sam's seed looked. There it lay in big piles. 

"Jumpin' Jehosaphat!" exclaimed Bill. "You 



ain't a-goin' to plant that gnarly, scabby, wiz- 
ened-up trash, be ye?" 

"Why not?" said his partner, looking up. "Why 
wouldn't I?" 

"And you knowin' enough to propose coopera- 
tion in the first place? Surely you know enough 
not to plant that kind of seed!" 

"Well, I been a-plantin' of it every year, just 
like my father V my grandfather did, and I'm 
goin' to keep on. Fact is, I kin remember hearin' 
my granddaddy say that it was always best to sell 
the best potatoes and plant the rest. He done it 
and what was good enough fer my granddaddy is 
good enough fer me!" 

"But what about me?" Bill protested. "Here I 
been selectin' and selectin', tryin' to get my pota- 
toes bigger 'n' finer V no scab on 'em. Soaked 
'em every year fer scab, an' it's no wonder my 
spuds have shelled out so fine every fall. And 
what's more, everything I kin learn from them 
fellers over at th' Experiment Station about 
growin' 'em better, I'm going to learn. An 7 I'm 
a-goin' to use it too." 

"Aw, come on, Bill," coaxed Sam. "Go ahead 
and let's plant yours and mine all together. What's 
the harm? I tell ye, what them old-timers said was 
right. I'm goin' by them." 



Well, the preliminary work had all been done, 
and anyway spring is the time of hope, so Bill felt 
that for this one time he had better be a sport and 
go along with Sam. They proceeded to pool their 
seed, and they went to work. Summer passed. 
Here and there were fine stalwart potatoes. But 
by the time the crop was dug, some of the scab 
from Sam's had infected Bill's, and in addition the 
crop as a whole was much less than twice as large 
as Bill by himself had had during previous years. 

The time came to market the potatoes. Said 
Bill : "Now looka here, Sam, let's select our seed 
for next year, first thing we do. We've had a bad 
enough lesson this season to know that a feller 
can't grow good potatoes unless he has good seed." 

"Save the seed?" exclaimed Sam in disgust. "I 
guess not. We'll sell the best, and use for seed the 
little poor ones that we can't sell." 

Then (because this is a modern parable) Bill 
replied: "Oh, yeah? Well, you go ahead and run 
your farm, and keep plantin' your scabby, runty 
seed. I'm a-goin' to keep the best fer seed. I'll run 
my farm you run yours and some day maybe 
you'll find out what plantin' that poor seed is costin' 






To-day's discussion of our need for "a planned 
Society" usually emphasizes aspects of our eco- 
nomic structure. As yet, current talk has not 
touched on a far more important need of contem- 
porary life, the foundation on which any new eco- 
nomic structure must be built, if it is to stay firm. 
I mean a eugenic program. 

There is no denying the fact that if we take ac- 
count of the quality of a population as well as of 
its numbers, we strike at the root of the problem, 
for these two go hand in hand. Back of this ques- 
tion, again, stands that of ambition, of goal. 
Where are we heading? If we want to get some- 
where, we first ask ourselves where we are going 
and then take the most direct route. Where do 
we want to go? We have over us no dictator mo- 
tivated by self-glorification; we are not being 
coerced into breeding a great army which he may 
use to acquire new territory. We do not need 
millions of men for national defense, since there is 



little likelihood of our being attacked by another 
nation. Perhaps we should do well to adopt as our 
ideal the desire to become a model nation, to live 
contentedly within our own boundaries, to forgo 
any plans of aggression, to produce as much as pos- 
sible for the support of our own people, to be self- 
sufficing and yet have enough surplus to help other 
peoples when they need it. 

A large proportion of our population is of in- 
nately fine stock. We still have seed-stock from 
which we might erect a nation such as the world 
has never seen, a nation such as has only been 
dreamed of. What else is there for us to do than 
just that become an object lesson? But what 
kind of object lesson shall we become? 

We need financial security. We are going to 
achieve it, with effort. It has been argued, I think 
convincingly, that we can get along very well in- 
deed with a smaller population. But it must be 
made more and more a quality population. Per- 
haps we shall get that too. But if ever we are go- 
ing to, our first and greatest necessity is the wide 
and immediate dissemination of birth-control in- 
formation. Every one must do what he can in the 
direction of that legislative reform. We must 
make available to every couple at the time of mar- 
riage such information as will enable them to have 



as many or as few children as they want, and to 
space the children properly. Progressive up- 
ward evolution will inevitably set in. As I have 
said earlier, what if the minus social elements do 
have two children to satisfy their parental instinct? 
At that they will diminish at the rate of 50% each 

Give them the necessary information and in- 
struction and let them decide for themselves 
whether to have few children or many. If we sup- 
pose their incomes to be reasonably stable, and if 
each year they must make their choice between a 
commodity and a baby, which do you think they 
will choose? Here is a nice shiny automobile; and 
here is a baby. Which will they take? Here is a 
television apparatus, the newest and best on the 
market. Will you choose that, Mr. Moron, or 
would you like another baby? There, Mrs. Moron, 
are the moving pictures, the public golf-course, 
there are nine months of freedom w. nine months 
of staying home which will you choose? Mr. 
Moron, here you see a squalling baby who will get 
you up nights, and here you see nice long evenings 
in the poolroom which will you choose? A 
Sears-Roebuck catalogue offers a thousand choices 
between a baby and something else that looks 
pretty tempting. Which will the morons choose? 



If you think they will choose more than one or two 
babies, then you don't know morons. 

The first step in building a civilization, there- 
fore, is to place everybody on the same footing as 
that on which our intelligent classes find them- 
selves to-day. This done, sterilization will come to 
the assistance of those who are too stupid to com- 
prehend or to carry out the simple methods of con- 
traception; to help those who are intelligent but 
resolved, because they know they bear dysgenic 
germ-plasm, that they will have no children at 
all; and finally the relatives and guardians of de- 
generates who want to protect themselves, their 
family, and the race against the trouble to which 
the pregnancy of a degenerate in their family 
might give rise. In the program for a controlled 
and planned society, sterilization^ will take the 
place of contraception for a host of persons. It 
will make contraception unnecessary in many cases 
and will liberate the mind of the person desiring 
an effective and permanent means of birth-control. 

A planned society must imply the regulation of 
births. But its birth-control program must be 
threefold : birth-liberation for those best endowed 
by Nature; birth-maintenance for the great aver- 
age; birth-reduction for the lowest social elements. 
Just one thing is essential: to make contraception 



and sterilization available. Superiority will of it- 
self be the deciding factor. Superior people will 
show their superiority in the test which is to come. 
That test is the survival of the fittest, but the 
question of who the fittest are will come to have a 
new meaning. No longer will we make the mis- 
take of translating fitness as brute strength; we 
shall understand it to comprehend all that we hold 
dearest in life beauty, love, idealism, good citi- 
zenship, honor, health, and the happiness that 
springs from being able to create our families by 
choice rather than by chance. 

If I did not know that already within our ranks 
we are witnessing a demonstration that this con- 
dition can actually come about, I should not feel 
so hopeful. But all our population figures show 
that whereas the birth-rate dropped first in the 
upper classes (considering class on the basis of in- 
telligence) the ability to control this has slowly 
crept downward until to-day it is almost possible 
for the border-line group to control their births. 
To-morrow it will be possible for them. And that 
to-morrow can be brought closer by the efforts of 
all intelligent people. "Ye shall know the truth 
and the truth shall make you free." 






Once upon a time there was a kind gentleman 
who bought a bear-cub. 

Now a bear-cub is about the most lovable little 
creature ever invented by Nature. Anybody 
would fall for one. Indeed, "Teddy Bears" owed 
their popularity to this very susceptibility in chil- 
dren and grown-ups alike. So we must not blame 
the kind gentleman for yielding to his impulse. 
Edward was the cutest of bear-cubs so helpless, 
so utterly dependent on its master for its every 
need, so gentle and appealing. Never did Edward 
scratch the kind gentleman, but lapped his hand 
and followed him everywhere he went. 

Edward lived on the fat of the land. Edward 
grew. But for many months its owner, because 
he was so close to his pet, did not notice the growth ; 
though now and again he did wonder why Edward 
was eating so much more food every week. Then 
one day he awoke to the realization that his darling 
little cub was losing some of its cuteness. That 
night he didn't sleep very well, and he got up on 
the wrong side of the bed. At breakfast he said 


to his wife that maybe he had undertaken some- 
thing that wasn't so laudable. However, he went 
off to business, and came home feeling better and 
having forgotten all about Edward in the mean- 

Day after day he continued Edward's feedings 
a little more every week. He brought his friends 
over to see his pet, to admire Edward's proud 
beauty. But pretty soon he found he had to stop 
referring to "our cub" Edward could certainly 
not be called anything but a full-grown bear by 
this time. Also it occurred to him after a while 
that his pet didn't seem very grateful for every- 
thing he was doing for it acted, indeed, anything 
but appreciative. Sometimes, when he set the dish 
of food down, Edward would actually growl at his 
kind master. 

And then one day he took his bear out for a 
stroll, leading it on a chain as usual. But as the 
two were passing along the village street the bear 
suddenly began to growl fiercely; then struck at 
the kind gentleman with a tremendously powerful 
paw. This seemed almost to hint ingratitude, and 
the gentleman was much shocked. He dared not 
drop the chain lest Edward should run loose 
through the neighborhood and scare the people 
to death. So he promptly did what he had been 



told was the only thing to do he caught hold of 
Edward's tail. The bear raced ahead, dragging 
its master by its tail; then stopped and tried to 
reach back. But its master only pulled a little 
harder, sidewise. All that the bear could do was 
to look around threateningly. All that its master 
could do was to hang on. He hung, and he hung, 
and finally, when he was completely exhausted, he 
yelled for help. So a neighbor came out with a gun 
and shot Edward. And that's the end of the story. 

Some generations ago, we the kindly people of 
America adopted a cute little harmless bear-cub, 
in the form of our mentally handicapped citizens. 
We fed them, clothed them, housed them, allowed 
them to increase in size by continual augmentation 
from immigrants of their own caliber. At first 
we enjoyed helping these unfortunates. Those of 
us who could afford it took no end of pleasure in 
the consciousness that our charges were being gen- 
erously provided with creature comforts. 

But this bear grew, too, and once in a while we 
found ourselves a little worried as to whether we 
had done just the right thing. But we got over 
that feeling, chiefly because we had argued our- 
selves into believing that what we were doing was 
the only thing we could do. 



And then the time came when our bear our 
subnormals and degenerates, our imbeciles and 
morons actually attacked us. There was just one 
chance of salvation : we reached for the bear's tail. 
And we have been hanging on to that tail ever 
since. We daren't let go, because we know that if 
we do, our bear will turn on us and tear us to bits. 

Indeed, this is exactly the problem that now con- 
fronts the better classes not only in our own coun- 
try but in many another as well. They have a bear 
by the tail, the bear that they have fondly tended. 
They forgot that a bear grows up to be a treacher- 
ous beast. They saw it first when it was appealing 
and harmless, except for its potentialities. And 
how are they now holding onto its tail? By charity, 
which they no longer give cheerfully but have 
come to look on chiefly as a means of self-protec- 

Now charity, in its Pauline sense love and 
compassion is essential to human nobility, and the 
expression of it in kindly action brings strength 
and happiness, "blessing him that gives and him 
that takes." But organized charity should be di- 
rected toward making itself gradually less and less 
needed. It should end with one generation, if pos- 
sible with one almsgiving. This is, of course, an 
unattainable ideal. The ideal benefaction is a 



charity to lessen charity I mean ideal in the sense 
of ultimate kindness, kindness to the recipient. 
The true Good Samaritan not only binds up the 
wounds of the stranger assaulted on the road; he 
uses his intelligence to see to it that there won't be 
any more attacks made along that road. 

Have you ever thought what might happen if we 
were to stop dispensing all this soothing-syrup? 
The Community Chest is one of the things that 
have carried America through the depression. We 
have nurtured our minus elements, who are too 
stupid or too vicious to understand anything but 
force, to whom the sole criterion of right is 
whether you can get away with it. We have cod- 
dled them until they have become so powerful that 
if we let go of the tail we might as well write finis 
to ourselves and our civilization. They are strong 
enough to overwhelm the rich and intelligent and 
public-spirited. More of them to-day are demand- 
ing perpetual care than we are able to control. 
Give, give, give. You must give you who have 
the wealth. We must, too we who wear white 
collars and who have suffered during the depres- 
sion far more than have many of the pets whom 
misguided charity has reared so tenderly. 

We have reached a crisis. These border-liners 
are having so many unwanted children that they 


are not from choice almost doubling their num- 
bers every generation. The donors of charity are 
becoming gradually fewer, though when they get 
free of some of the burden that our degenerates im- 
pose on them they will begin to increase. 

We know that to-day's need for public relief has 
been a terrific strain on ourselves as donors to pri- 
vate charity and on our national resources as 
well. We know how necessary some of our multi- 
initialed Federal enterprises are, how helpful they 
have been in relieving the strain on private charity. 
But we know, too, that these are but another form 
of soothing-syrup, for which our children will 
have to pay. Now isn't it obvious so obvious that 
even the morons themselves could see it that if 
the subnormal group, our overgrown pet whose 
keeper dares not let go of its tail, continues to grow, 
it will not only shake its keeper off but actually 
turn and devour him and all his property? The 
only mystery is why the keeper himself hasn't long 
ago seen this. Is it because he has been only half- 
conscious of the growing strength and menace of 
the bear, and has refused to admit that the day must 
come when he can no longer control it? 

I have endeavored to treat the subject of sterili- 
zation dispassionately, at the same time presenting 



the facts as I know them and as they relate to the 
ways in which sterilization may be used as a race- 
builder, an eliminator of human misery, and an 
agency for increasing the sum total of human hap- 

To recapitulate briefly: we have seen that the 
operation itself is a simple one very simple as 
operations go ; and that it does not interfere either 
with sexual satisfaction or with the sexual func- 
tions except that it insures sterility. We have 
noted the great increase in degeneracy in America, 
its source, and its cost. We have observed some of 
the known inherited human characteristics and the 
mode of their inheritance. We have seen that 
there are few valid objections and many compel- 
ling reasons for making sterilization available to 
those who want it, provided they are given com- 
plete protection and are made to take time to con- 
sider the possible consequences of their decision. 
Then we have observed the recognized fact that 
many a degenerate does not really want a lot of 
children, that he has them as the price he must pay 
for pleasure, and that if we will but help him to do 
as he really prefers to do, if we will put him on a 
par with ourselves in the matters of contraception 
and sterilization, he himself will do the very thing 
that is best for the future of America namely, 



have fewer children. We have seen, too, that a 
planned society is practically unthinkable without 
sterilization, and that to a certain extent the future 
of our race depends on the widest possible applica- 
tion of the procedure. But we also know that the 
movement has powerful enemies, who for reasons 
of their own will probably continue for many years 
to oppose all efforts toward race-building. We 
therefore propose not only to bring them to their 
senses but also in the name of ordinary justice 
to let them pay for their folly; nay, to insist that 
they pay for it. 

Twenty years ago the proponents of sterilization 
found themselves but voices crying in the wilder- 
ness, supported only by a little band of far-sighted 
citizens whose common sense told them that like 
tends to beget like. Until to-day one has felt in- 
adequate, almost solitary, when he tried to urge 
his convictions upon the apathetic millions of his 
fellow-citizens. If Herr Hitler deserves any ap- 
probation at all it must be for his services in 
making John Citizen think about sterilization. 
Eugenics is being taught now in three-quarters of 
our five hundred colleges and universities, and in 
many high and preparatory schools. Its teachings 
are furnishing texts for thousands of sermons. 


Though I know of no other like movement that 
has had such encouraging growth, there is still 
room for a lot of expansion. Not until its mes- 
sage has reached every man, woman, and child and 
made all of them feel that theirs is the opportunity 
to take part in the building of a greater civilization 
not until then will eugenics be living up to its 
potentialities. And what can / do, what can you 
do, in this cause? Helpless and insignificant we 
may be, as individuals ; but by adding each his en- 
thusiastic willingness to spread eugenic ideas and 
to help educate the opposing forces, we can do a 
great deal. 

Let me quote from Charles Edward Russell's 
article in the October, 1933, issue of Scribner's 

Every attack upon every intrenched 
evil helps toward the onward motion. 
And it makes not the slightest difference 
in men's eyes if the attack is fruitless. 
There is no such thing in the world as a 
wasted protest against any existing evil. 
If the protest is made to no more than a 
handful of people and is stifled then, it 
will, if it is true, just and honest, bear 



sometime its due measure of fruit. . . . 
Nothing pays so well as enlistment in 
some betterment movement. It pays 
not in simoleons nor in kudos, but in one's 
right to be on good terms with one's self, 
which is about all there is in life anyway 
which amounts to a hoot. . . . The one 
purpose that seems to have either sanity 
or actual reward is to keep some step, 
however stumbling, however far in the 
rear, with the vast, silent, often mysteri- 
ous, sometimes hardly discernible proc- 
esses that are slowly transforming the 
world from a wolves' den to a place 
where a man can know some peace, some 
content, some joy of living, some sense of 
the inexhaustible beauties of the universe 
in which he has been placed. 

If you can think of any subject or cause that you 
could interest yourself in that will yield to you and 
to society the same returns that the sterilization 
cause will yield, I should like to know what it is. 
Every man, every woman, needs some constructive 
hobby. Here is a cause to which you can usefully 
give as much or as little time as you have to spare. 
You will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with 



men and women who have the best interests of our 
country at heart. None of them is trying to make 
any profit, none has any ax to grind. Everybody 
has just one objective and is doing his or her part 
to achieve it. 

We ourselves, admittedly, will hardly live to see 
much more than the beginnings of what we are 
striving toward. But the world is old, after all ; 
the human germ-plasm has been evolving through 
countless eons, and there will be human creatures 
on earth for many millions of years to come. This 
being so, it is little enough for us now to "learn [or 
plan] as though we were to live forever, to live as 
though we were to die to-morrow." As biology 
tells us, though we ourselves shall not live on, the 
germ-plasm that created us will go on creating 
our children and our children's children. The 
Immortal Germ-plasm! When we consider that 
in this way we do have immortality of a sort, ought 
it not to make us think? Should we not accept 
more seriously than we do the responsibility that 
is ours? What we do to-day in the direction of 
improving the germ-plasm determines what kind 
of germ-plasm there will be to-morrow. What are 
we going to do about it? Drift? There are those 
who see us headed for dire calamity. u As I watch 
America drifting gaily with invincible optimism 



down the road to destruction, I seem to be con- 
templating the greatest tragedy in the history of 
mankind," wrote Dr. William McDougall, emi- 
nent psychologist but he wrote it before we had 
learned the eloquent fact that the people at the 
very top are having enough children to keep their 
families perpetuated, before we began to note the 
swing toward adequate families in our best- 
endowed classes. 

America is certainly not bound "down the road 
to destruction," notwithstanding some current situ- 
ations that must cause us grave concern. Too many 
good minds are left, too many persons are eager 
and ready to help steer the Ship of State away from 
the rocks that loom in the distance. There is fuel 
aplenty for that ship, but we have come to see that 
navigation is as essential as fuel. We may heartily 
rejoice at the promising signs that point unmis- 
takably to the fact that a biological revolution is 
going on among us, that a new public sentiment is 
discoverable which may turn the tide, that there 
is developing among us a better type of human 
being idealistic, practical, religious, intelligent, 
with sound temperament and noble emotions. Let 
us then devote our utmost effort to encouraging this 
type, and to discouraging the continuation of those 
at the lower end of the social scale. 











The following technical papers represent the 
work of Mr. E. S. Gosney and Dr. Paul Popenoe. 
They deal with the workings of the California 
eugenical sterilization law and are fundamental 
source-material for any one interested in sterili- 

1. THE INSANE. Journal of Social Hygiene, XIII (5) : 
257-268, May, 1927. 

2. THE FEEBLE-MINDED. Journal of Social Hygiene, XIII 
(6); 321-330, June, 1927. 

ican Assn. for the Study of the Feeble-minded, 5ist annual 
session, 1927, pp. 86-103. 

4. CHANGES IN ADMINISTRATION. Journal of Social Hy- 
giene, XIII (8) : 466-477, November, 1927. 

Journal of Social Hygiene, XIV (1)123-32, January, 

ous and Mental Diseases, LXVIII (i) : 17-27, July, 1928. 

7. FECUNDITY OF THE INSANE. Journal of Heredity, XIX 
(2) : 73-82, February, 1928. 

FEEBLE-MINDED. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal 
of Genetic Psychology, XXXV: 303-311, 1928. 

9. VOLUNTARY STERILIZATION. Proceedings of the 3d Race 
Betterment Congress, Battle Creek, Michigan, 1928. 



OPERATION. Journal of Social Hygiene, XIV (5) 1271- 
280, May, 1928. 

Journal of Social Hygiene, XIV (5)1280-285, May, 

FEEBLE-MINDED. Journal of Applied Psychology, XII 
(3): 304-3 1 6, June, 1928. 

$2d annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Study 
of the Feeble-minded, 1928. 

Journal of Heredity, XIX (9) : 405-411, September, 1928. 

the 5 1st annual meeting of the American Bar Assn., 1928 
(by Otis H. Castle). 

$ist annual meeting of the American Bar Association, 

genics, 1(2): 9-23, November, 1928. 

of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1929. 





Dominance of One Character and Recessiveness of the Cor- 
responding, in the First Generation of Offspring; and Segrega- 
tion in the Second and Subsequent Generations. 

Body size and shape. 

Certain fetal deformities (achondroplasia). Dominant 

over normal. 
Normal size. Dominant over true dwarfs. 


All the following traits dominate normal condition. 
Short digits and limbs (brachydactyly). 
Absence of distal phalanges. 
Extra digits (polydactyly). 
Fused, webbed, or fewer digits (syndactyly). 
Fused joints of digits (symphalangy). 
Abnormal outgrowths of long bones (exostoses). 
Fragility of bones (osteopsathyrosis). 
Double-join tedness. 


Pale thin skin. Dominant over colored thin skin. 

Brunet complexion. Dominant over intermediate and 

Spotted white (vitiligo). Dominant over uniformly col- 



Excessive formation of blisters (epidermolysis). Domi- 
nant over normal. 

Hairiness, congenital (hypertrichosis). Dominant over 

Skin thickening, nail marking. Dominant over normal. 


White forelock. Dominant over normal solid color. 
Dark brown. Dominant over light brown to tow and 

light reds. 

Black. Dominant over all other colors. 
Patchy graying of hair (canities). Dominant over normal, 

solid color. 
Curly, flat cross-section. Dominant over straight, round 

Beaded, non-uniform cross-section. Dominant over normal 

Digital hair. Dominant over absence. 


Brown or black. Dominant over blue. 

Hereditary cataract this and following all dominant over 


Internal pressure and swelling of eyeball (glaucoma). 
Displaced lens (ectopia lentis). 

Retina pigmentary degeneration (retinitis pigmentosa). 
Absence of crystalline lens, congenital (aphakia). 
Drooping of eyelid from paralysis, congenital (ptosis). 


Normal condition. Dominant over deaf-mutism. 
Normal condition. Dominant over hardening of ear tissue 

Nervous system. 

Chronic muscular twitchings ( Huntington's chorea). 
Dominant over normal. 



Muscular atrophy, progressive neural, both dominant over 

Spontaneous (idiopathic) epilepsy. Recessive to normal. 

Constitutional feeble-mindedness. Recessive to normal. 

St. Vitus' dance (Sydenham's chorea). Recessive to nor- 

Lack of muscular tone (Thomson's disease). Recessive to 


Excessive urination (diabetes insipidus). Dominant over 

Excessive sugar in urine (diabetes mellitus). Dominant 

over normal. 
Urine dark after oxidation (alkaptonuria). Recessive to 




Defective hair and teeth 
Extra teeth 

Double set of permanent teeth 
Harelip and cleft palate 

Retention of testes in abdomen (cryptorchidism) 
Absence of certain teeth (dental agnesia) 
Bilobed ear 
Dent in forehead 
Human protein sensitization 
Double crown of scalp 
Stiffening of joints (ankylosis) 
Degeneracy of the cornea 

Constitutional predisposition to certain diseases, such as cancer, 
pneumonia, abdominal hernia, inguinal hernia 



Stuttering or stammering 

Anemia in young women (chlorosis) 

Nosebleed (epistaxis) 

Dilatation of capillaries (telangiectasis) 

Splenic anemia 



Exophthalmic goitre (Graves' disease) 

Ability (a) literary, (b) mathematical, (c) mechanical, 

(d) artistic, (e) intellectual 
Heart defect 
Pernicious anemia 
Hardening of arteries (arteriosclerosis) 



Fissure of parts of eye (coloboma) 

Atrophy of optic nerve 

Near sight (myopia) 

Color blindness (Daltonism) 

Night blindness 

Rolling of eyes (nystagmus) 

Scaly skin (ichthyosis) 

Pattern baldness 

Degeneration of nerve tissue (multiple sclerosis) 

Grower's muscular atrophy (dystrophia muscularis progressiva) 

Tendency to abnormal bleeding (hemophilia) 


Deficiency in sense of smell 

Sea-lust (thalassophilia) 


Webbed toes 

Abnormal smallness of eyes (microphthalmia) 




The following table shows what many of our 
States are doing in regard to sterilization in their 
institutions. It shows the number of operations 
in each State performed up to January i, 1921; 
between then and January i, 1928; between then 
and January i, 1932; and between then and Janu- 
ary i, 1933. The first column shows the year when 
the law was passed or when the latest amendment 
was passed to the existing law. A dash means that 
in this year there was no law; a cipher means that 
there was a law but that no operations were per- 
formed. The table does not, of course, show the 
many operations performed privately. 







Alabama 1923 

Arizona 1929 

California 1917 

Connecticut 1919 

Delaware 1929 

Idaho 1929 

Indiana* 1931 

Iowa 1929 

Kansas ^9*7 

Maine 1931 

Michigan 1929 

Minnesota 1925 

Mississippi 1928 

Montana 1923 

Nebraska 1929 

New Hampshire 1929 

New York 


North Carolina .... 1929 

North Dakota *927 

Oklahoma 1931 

Oregon 1925 

South Dakota 1927 

Utah 1929 

Vermont 1931 

Virginia 1924 

Washington 1921 

West Virginia 1929 

Wisconsin 1913 


Jan. i, 

Jan. I, 


















1 06 





















3,233 8,515 

Jan. I, 

























Jan. i, 



















12,145 16,056 

* The figures given for Indiana do not include the voluntary sterili- 
zations of several hundred males between 1899 and 1909, the year 
when Indiana passed its first law. 




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